MasterChef Contestant DEE WILLIAMS LAUNCHES YOUTUBE CHANNEL – DEE-LICIOUS –
Story by Marie Pietersz, Melbourne
MasterChef Judge Matt Preston’s reaction to Dee’s dish of Sri Lankan chicken curry, dhal and coconut sambol, is about to take on a life of its own, when Dee launches her YouTube channel Dee-licious on Wednesday, 8 May. Dee’s short but very happy time on MasterChef has had a very positive experience on her, so I will follow this up in my personal and candid chat with her.
Dee Williams, 37, is the first Sri Lankan female MasterChef contestant who made it into top 24 contestants on season 11, 2019. Dee is from Kandy, Sri Lanka. The oldest of four children, Dee’s family lived on a tea plantation and in 2007 she packed up and moved to Australia to complete a Bachelor’s degree in Hotel Management at Holmesglen, graduating in 2011 and now works casually as an Office Manager.
Arriving in Australia, Dee says she was inspired by the variety of cuisines and cooking cultures on offer, and cites her strengths in the kitchen as Asian and Sri Lankan, a confident allrounder in Malaysian, Thai and Singaporean flavours.
She lives at home with her husband Michael who she married in 2012, and young brother, Ebenezer, who lives with the couple in Melbourne’s east.
Why did you enter the MC competition?
I came to Australia to do a degree in Hotel Management. Back in Sri Lanka I was in a boarding school and was not exposed to a lot of cooking experiences, only my mum’s, from whom I learnt about Sri Lankan and South Indian cuisine, but when I came to Australia, it opened up a different world – one that exposed me to a whole new world of food, given Melbourne is famous for its international cuisine.
Who or what inspired you to enter to be a contestant on MasterChef?
I am a big fan of MasterChef and I used to try and practise the MasterChef dishes at home, which gave me confidence in my ability to turn out dishes that I hadn’t experience in before, so I said to myself, “I can do it. I can give MasterChef a go,” and this idea was born in me and I thought I must try to give this lifetime opportunity a go.
I was also inspired by Sri Lankan contestant Kumar Pereira on Series 3 who made it to the top twelve, and I like Peter Kuruvita’s culturally inspired cooking and his achievements.
What went wrong when you were eliminated on the “challenge” last night (6 May)?
Making the perfect Bombe Alaska was a tough challenge and I crumbled under pressure. I had to take ten minutes off the set to collect my thoughts, before I came back, amidst shouts of encouragement from my fellow contestants, to continue with the task of turning out a Bombe Alaska as close as possible to the master sample of this old favourite we had to copy. I thought, it took me ten years to get to cook in the MasterChef kitchen and I am not going to give up now.
My sorbet and ice cream measurements didn’t come together very well and as a result it didn’t have the right texture and flavour and the ice cream was not set.
What are your plans for the future?
I have plans to open up a cooking school for Sri Lankan cuisine as well as other cuisines. If I had won MasterChef, it would have been easier to launch this plan, but for now my challenge is to launch my YouTube channel which will provide viewers with cooking techniques, tips and product reviews, to start.
I work casual hours now in my day job, so I could still manage to do this after hours and see how I go and perhaps I will one day be doing this full time when my business grows.
What was your experience on MasterChef like?
It gave me the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – twenty-four contestants, sharing the same dream, living together, getting to know each other, supporting each other, and learning different techniques from each other and from the judges in their master classes.
Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan love the flavours of Asia and George Columbaris has spent some time enjoying enormous popularity as a guest chef and experiencing the flavours of Sri Lanka, on location.
The judges are open-minded and fair with their comments on and off the show and you grow as a person and gain more confidence to try new things out and not be scared to put new ideas and suggestions forward.
Would you recommend MasterChef to other young Australians or migrant Australians? What advice would you give them?
Definitely. If you have a passion for food, push yourself to pursue it. There are a lot of rounds of pressure-testing and group challenges to get through before you get to be one of the twenty-four contestants. I failed in my first attempt to get on, but I did not give up and tried again and was successful to get in on Series 11.
If you have a dream you have to pursue it. If you have the opportunity to get on to MasterChef, take it and move forward.
It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, you have to fulfil your dream.
Is there room for you in the YouTube cooking space? What is going to make your channel different?
I have also been slowly building my profile on social media and have other plans to bring my own spice range on the market, perhaps a recipe book of Sri Lankan cooking secrets, which I know there is an audience out there for, and I am going to take some time to see what other opportunities there are in this space.
What will you be leaving behind as your “signature” dish on MasterChef?
The judges enjoyed my (mum’s) chicken curry, but my (mum’s) crab curry is the one they will remember for a long time. I was instantly awarded the “white” apron for the crab curry, which was a proud moment for me. It was as close as possible to my mum’s curry and, luckily, I was able to get all the ingredients I needed in the MasterChef kitchen, so I didn’t need to change it much – just the dark palm sugar, I guess, was the secret ingredient.
What would you like for MasterChef in the future?
I would like to see a MasterChef competition start up in Sri Lanka and I would love to be a guest judge. I think Sri Lanka is ready for MasterChef and I would love to see it happen.
Thank you, Dee, for sharing your MasterChef story with me. Your beautiful smile and humble personality made you a lot of fans in the Sri Lankan community. Congratulations on your qualification to cook in the MasterChef kitchen. You made us all proud of you.
Well done and good luck with the next chapter of your culinary journey, which we look forward to hearing about.