World Dumpling Day!


I had the pleasure of hosting an event to celebrate World Dumpling Day at The Galeries, in Sydney last week. In their first ever dumpling eating competition, some very brave contestants set out to beat the current Guinnes World Record for the most amount of dumplings consumed in 2 minutes…which stands at 30.

My amazing Doodad & Fandango earrings, matched with my emerald green velvet turban by  EDGELEY .

My amazing Doodad & Fandango earrings, matched with my emerald green velvet turban by EDGELEY.

Well done to our first place Karl, who ate 27 dumplings in the time limit…so close yet so far!!

For all the thrills, spills and to find out whether anyone puked, read all about the dumpling madness here.

Thank you to the fabulous team at The Galeries and Lotus Dining for having me host such a fun (and filling) event…

And a special shout out to the wonderful Doodad & Fandango, who made me custom dumpling earrings just for the day. If you would like to order an exact pair, click HERE!

Writing In Colour: Notes On Diversity In Food Writing

In this month’s @hospitalitymagazine, I was asked to write about my perspective on food writing as a person of colour in Australia, and I asked a bunch of chefs and restaurateurs (of different backgrounds), to weigh in on whether any of it matters.⁣

Thank you to Dan Hong, Palisa Anderson, Victor Liong, Jerry Mai, Joel Valvasori, Aaron Turner and Khanh Nguyen, for your thoughtful insight.
Thank you also, to editor @annabellecloros for allowing me to contribute to the global discussion on diversity in our industry. It’s an important issue, but then again so is competence, tone and respect.

Click here to read the story.

Come See Me At The Curated Plate On The Sunshine Coast August 8 - 11!

I’m thrilled to be hosting a couple of delicious events at the inaugural year for The Curated Plate, on Queensland’s beautiful Sunshine Coast August 8 - 11, featuring some of Australia and New Zealand’s hottest chef talent.

The Chefs' Line Airs on Netflix

Netflix August 2019

Netflix August 2019

Two years ago, I would have laughed in your face if you’d told me I’d be co-host and judge on a show on @netflix with my pals @hongsta_gram and @markblackolive, and alongside trail blazing shows I’ve loved and admired.⁣
Since then, my world has opened up so much, and I’m so humbled by the crazy things I get to call work these days, in addition to my job as a food and travel writer. ⁣⁣
We filmed Season 1 of #thechefsline so long ago it feels like a distant memory (would someone tell me never to cut a fringe?!), but if you’re new to the show, thank you for watching!

Click here to watch now! #netflix

Avoiding Single Use Plastic While Travelling: ABC RADIO

My sustainable travel kit

My sustainable travel kit

I love my regular food and travel segment with Richelle Hunt on ABC Melbourne! Aside from being hilarious, warm and well versed on every subject under the sun, she lets me talk about anything I’m into. A huge focus for a while, has been creating less single use waste while on the road, so we talked about my tips for travelling a bit more consciously as a human. The good news is that it isn’t cumbersome, or difficult, it’s totally doable!

All you need is:

  • A reusable water bottle (an insulated one is great for keeping things hotter or colder for longer). Go through international security with it empty so you can take it through, then refill on the side, or ask your air host to do it while in the air. If you can nab a lemon wedge from the lounge, a cafe, or the bar cart, even better!

  • A reusable straw for smoothies, juices and other slurpables (mine is from Melbourne brand Toko Eco)

  • A sleeve with reusable cutlery, and YES, the knife is TSA friendly!

  • A travel coffee cup (so you don’t to use the disposable ones on the plane)

  • (not pictured) a stainless steel, leak proof bento, for snacks. It’s obviously fine to eat what you are served on a plane, but if you want to eat healthier and make sure everything you use isn’t wrapped in plastic, then this is a great way to go!

    My favourites are things like jerky, almonds, dark chocolate, seaweed crisps, fruit, or konjac noodles with a dressing. Vegan food is great because you don’t have to worry about it spoiling at room temperature for a few hours, which is also a good call, no matter how much meat you eat.

Tune in here to listen to the piece, and while I am most certainly not evangelising this way to travel, I can highly recommend it for convenience, deliciousness, and a tiny contribute to being a responsible human for the planet. Tiny changes by many, add up.

What is The Slowdown? From Burnout To Breaking Down, Here's My Story.

The Slowdown Press Melissa Leong

I spent some time recently, with the incredible @katepascoesquires for her new publication @theslowdownpress. It’s easily the most raw I’ve been about who I am and how I’ve come to view the world, but I think that real talk is the kind we should be having more with one another in the world, whatever the medium. ⁣⁣
In it, I talk about my personal struggles with mental health, what really happens when you burn out, and an honest account of how I’ve finally come to be comfortable in my skin. If you read it, thank you for sharing my story and I wish you well in yours. The Slowdown is a wonderful online publication that shares the stories and lessons learned by a heap of people from all walks of life and perspectives, so I invite you to read on, and maybe find some inspiration on your own path.

Click here to read my story.

Images and words by Kate Pascoe Squires.

The Design Files: A Day In The Life

The Design Files Melissa Leong

I have been freelancing for over a decade as a writer, journalist, television presenter, media/communications consultant, editor and general food industry dogsbody. No day is ever the same, but nonetheless, I attempted to explain what a day in my life looks like, to the fine people at The Design Files. I have been a fan of Lucy Feagins and her impeccable style and design website for so long, and it is truly a dream come true, to be featured among its beautiful pages.

Click here to read the story!

Photos by Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Want To Go On A Date With Me?

Sponsored content made with Visit Victoria and

Sponsored content made with Visit Victoria and

Recently, I was asked by, to write a piece on my picks on where to eat and drink, in a suburb by suburb guide to Melbourne (below). Join Joe and me as we go on a date night hit list of some of our favourite haunts; just a few of the reasons why I love this town!

How to eat your way through Melbourne’s neighbourhoods

Regardless of whether you’re southside chic or hip in the north, part of the cool young family crew in Footscray or beachy in St Kilda, one thing’s for sure: Melbourne knows how to eat. has teamed up with Visit Victoria to give readers the best local knowledge on where to find Melbourne’s hottest dining destinations. 

From weekend brunch to late night bites, each pocket of Melbourne contains something delicious, no matter what time it is… because, it’s always time to eat.

Melburnians are a loyal bunch. They’re not afraid to stick with the places that have served them well, and as such, many venues stand the test of time and dining dynasties are born. Over by the beach, Ronni Di Stasio’s eponymous namesake restaurant and bar may have recently opened a city iteration (Citta), but there’s real charm in visiting the original Café Di Stasiofor a Negroni and a plate of fritto misto. Meanwhile, down the street, Lau’s Family Kitchen sets the bar for what a local Chinese restaurant can be. It’s famous sister restaurant Flowerdrum may garner the accolades in this family, but there’s something to be said for soul food in the ’burbs.

A rush of new blood is always a great thing though, and historic live music venue The Espy has recently been reborn into its latest life; featuring plush new interiors, 12 bars over five floors, including cocktail bar The Ghost of Alfred Felton; helmed by Oska Jarvis-White, formerly of Fitzroy gold standard drinking establishment, The Everleigh. Meanwhile, over at The Stokehouse, it’s time to get bougie on the bay and enjoy a long, luxe lunch in architecturally inspired Pascale Gomes-McNabb designed space on the water.

Creeping towards the city, the South Yarra/ Windsor area celebrates the dichotomy of old and new; with classics like French bistros France Soir and Entrecôte continuing to occupy a crucial part in the cultural heart of the south. Enduring pub venue The Botanical is also undergoing a fresh lease on life, with new ownership in the driver’s seat. Meanwhile, new venues like Galah and Atlas Dining provide a fresh, new perspective on all things stylish and south of the Yarra.

We know South Melbourne has a great fresh food market scene, but that doesn’t mean options are short on the ground when it comes to great eats. The area around South Melbourne Market is littered with edible gems, including pastry palace Chez Dre; revered pastry chef Andres Reiss’ namesake café, while Bibelot is her glossy, modern ode to all things chocolate, coffee and supremely covetable. For something more savoury, Park Street Pasta & Wine has also been giving Melbourne a solid run for its money when it comes to Melbourne’s best pasta.

From hot pot to hotspot, the city is changing daily, especially when it comes to late night eating. Dragon Hot Pot’s 24-hour spicy Chinese odyssey has much of Melbourne’s hospitality crowd happy after service, as well as Butcher’s Diner, for one of the best burgers in the city, no matter how late (or early) it is. On the cult classic front, Ling Nan also will never not be a chef favourite. Here, 2am means bronzed, crispy five-spiced quail, pippies in XO over noodles, ice cold Tsingtao and half a dozen of your best mates.

A night out on the town is best-spent venue hopping, exploring the city’s charming alleyways, bars and dining spots. After 11 years, chef Matt McConnell and restaurateur Jo Gamvros’ Bar Lourinhã on Little Collins Street continues to be one of the city’s most compelling date night spots, with some of the best food in the city, sans the hype. A few streets over, their friend and sometimes-cohort, bartender Joe Jones matches them in the romance department (I should know, I’m married to the guy) at his aptly named and intimate table service cocktail bar, Romeo Lane. Speaking of lanes, Punch Lane’s media darling Sunda relishes showcasing the merits of truly imaginative fusion; with chef Khanh Nguyen’s imaginative interpretation of South East Asian food, presented through an Australian lens. A stumble next door, and neighbour Bar Saracen (owned by Middle Eastern restaurant royalty Rumi Dining) offers up delicious bar snacks “of Middle Eastern Appearance”.

Edging out of the city into the north, Carlton’s proud Italian heritage appears to be in good hands, with a new generation of operators, lifting up one of Australia’s most vital migrant cultures. Multi-venue behemoth, King & Godfree has finally reopened, offering an Italian deli, rooftop bar, gelateria and (set to open soon) wine bar, while new kids on the block Capitano and Leonardo’s Pizza Palace bring a new-school, Americano Italian vibe, to the Carlton massive. 

In nearby Fitzroy, chef Shannon Martinez, of Smith & Daughters, has reimagined her vegan restaurant menu into a hit parade of Italian trattoria favourites, which are punchy and vibrant regardless of the absence of meat. 

Tucked in the leafy streets behind Brunswick Street, Napier Quarter lives up its quest to provide a neighbourhood sanctuary in the form of a smart café by day and a chic wine bar with al fresco seating, come sundown.

If pubs are more your thing, Fitzroy and Collingwood’s quiet neighbourhood bars provide each to their own, with everything from bar cats (his name is Barry) and free pool on Mondays at Labour in Vain, to live rockabilly music and excellent Texan style BBQ ’n’ bourbon shots at The Gem Bar

The city fringe suburbs are not exempt from the action either, with Yarraville welcoming superlative fine diner Navi, to the neighbourhood, while Footscray has evolved to expand its offering of delicious authentic Ethiopian and Vietnamese cuisines like Addis Abeba and To’s Bakery, to include dynamic newcomers like gastropub Harley & Rose and boozy bakery Bad Love Club. And speaking of bakeries, it would be remiss not to mention nearby North Melbourne’s Beatrix Bakes; purveyors of some of the best CWA-style cakes, hand pies and slices in town, from their tiny hole-in-the-wall shop on Queensbury Street.

Whether you identify with a tribe in a specific area, or you’re simply an indiscriminate eater, Melbourne’s litany of food offerings from shoestring to Champagne and suburb to city, is a delicious, moving feast. From pop-ups to 24-hour joints, institutions and newcomers, chances are there’s something for everyone, and the next time you’re looking for somewhere to eat, the landscape will have changed yet again. Not bad, for fresh food.

Dining out in this foodie town can be serious – seriously fun. Melbourne offers culinary experiences from all-day breakfasts to all-night delights. Visit Melbourne and discover it for yourself. Find out more at

Ever Done A DNA Ancestry Test?

As an ambassador for A Taste of Harmony 2019, I was asked if I wanted to fill out an ancestry DNA test to find out a little more about where I come from. I wrote about what I discovered for their website, but I thought I’d share with you a little bit about me here. The basic process for a test, no matter which service you use, is:

  1. Order your test online. There are great services like 23 & Me or Ancestry which make it super easy. It’s around $100usd.

  2. You will receive a parcel in the mail. Open it, follow the instructions carefully, but essentially, the first thing in the morning before you brush (gross!), spit into the tube supplied, seal the bio hazard bag, and send the parcel back according to instructions.

  3. A few weeks later, you’ll receive your results, some of which, you can feed through other website data engines, to help you find out things like medical predispositions to illnesses and intolerances, etc.

  4. That’s it!

So here’s my story.

Melissa Leong, 3 years old, Singapore.

Melissa Leong, 3 years old, Singapore.

I was always curious about my cultural heritage beyond what I knew about my family being from Singapore, with Chinese ancestry. Growing up in a predominantly white Australian community, with a few Greek and Italian families, I was always fascinated about how far and wide they knew their family tree. It’s not really an Asian thing, to pass down detailed information about family, at least not in mine. As a migrant family to Australia, my parents were more focused on giving us a future, instead of reflecting on the past. 

I grew up learning a lot about my culture though, through food. It’s the way with most Asian kids, and you aren’t necessarily taught, you learn by exposure and by doing. I was always included in the kitchen when my mum or grandmother was cooking, from leaning to pound chillies with a heavy stone mortar and pestle for sambal, or mixing the mince for wontons, different foods carry different symbolism and importance for different occasions. My mother is a fantastic cook and through her, I have a collection of recipes I make over and over again. They’re the ones I reach for in times of needing comfort or to feel more connected with who I am. I love making Hainanese chicken rice, Nyonya chicken curry, beef rendang and steamed oysters with ginger, spring onions and soy… not bad heirloom recipes to own!

All I really knew about my cultural identity prior to taking the DNA test, is that my grandparents on both sides were originally from China, removed by about a generation or two on each side. My mother, from Fujian Province, mixed with Peranakan Chinese and my father, from Canton, China. My facial features, however, suggested that there may be more to the story than just Chinese heritage, and I always suspected that because of my Singaporean roots, and its history as a place in the with such a multicultural trade significance, that I might also have Dutch or Portuguese ancestry thrown into the mix.

Imagine my surprise to find out that I’m 92% ethnically Chinese, with the remaining 7ish% broader East Asian (this has now come back saying that I have ancestry from The Phillipines and Guam)…and about 1% Native American. I never could have predicted that last part! It’s a fascinating piece of information about my history that I could have never predicted and I would love to explore where, how and when this part of my history played a part in my family. 

 If I had to bring a dish to A Taste of Harmony event, it would probably be wontons. They’re such a crowd pleaser and I love that Australians have taken to dumplings with the kind of obsessive quality any Asian can respect. We are, after all as Australians, a part of South East Asia – something I think our politicians and leaders tend to forget. I think by embracing who we are as a rich multicultural mix of cultures, we are better placed to create a safe, dynamic and peaceful place to live. Diversity to me, means inclusion for all, and an opportunity to learn from and grow with each other. 


Delicious Magazine: Why You Should Visit Slovenia

There are jobs and there are DREAM JOBS. Being sent to Slovenia with Nikki To last year was definitely one of them, and I’m thrilled with how the story came together in the March issue of delicious. Australia, out today. I cannot express to you how incredible this tiny country is, I hope you enjoy the story! You can find it in print in newsagents, and online later in the month. But for now, support newspapers and magazines and go pick one up!

Delicious Magazine Australia, March 2019 Issue

Delicious Magazine Australia, March 2019 Issue

Thank you to Luxury Escapes for sending us, true masters of an all killer, no filler tour. If you would like to tread the exact same trip, with the best in the biz, find out more here.

Facing The Food Industry's Hypocrisy: Duncan Welgemoed Speaks

It takes a lot of guts to get up in front of your peers on a global stage and speak out against negative issues, no matter your world of work. For the global food industry, the rise of celebrity chef culture and the ever blurring lines between commercial partnerships, talent and content, has led to a shocking decline in ethics and transparent engagement with consumers.

You buy a product because a chef you admire endorses it, but what are they really getting out of it…and is it any good for you? We’re yet to reach the dizzying heights of Kardashian Sponsored Kontent, ala, Kendall Jenner’s shocking display of vulnerability, paid for by acne skincare giant Proactive, but we’re not far off.

At Food On The Edge 2018, a symposium held in Galway, Ireland in late 2018, South African Australian chef and restaurateur Duncan Welgemoed of Adelaide’s Africola, spoke on the responsibility we have in the face of the popularisation of the food industry, as our profiles and spheres of influence expand. There is deep catharsis in hearing someone publicly say what we are all thinking, because not all of us have the platform or the guts to say it ourselves. A worthy 11 or so minutes of your day, whether you work in food or not. Video shared via Fine Dining Lovers.

Food In Times Of Crisis...What Do We Eat?

Aired Wednesday 6 February, 2019, 2.45pm

Aired Wednesday 6 February, 2019, 2.45pm

What foods do you reach for when things are tough? Do you have a go-to recipe that you make for people when they’re going through a hard time? Is it a tray of lasagne? Chicken soup? Congee? On the 10th anniversary of Victoria’s tragic Black Saturday fires, Richelle Hunt and I talk about the role that food plays in times of grief and strife. A HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who shared their very personal stories and dishes with me; the top dishes were all simple foods with a huge emphasis on carbohydrates and proteins and clean flavours, which goes to my point about the foods we truly crave…they don’t involve foams, soils and skid marks.

The overwhelming favourites were:

Pasta - especially lasagne (SO many votes for lasagne!), but also simple dishes like alio e olio, and good old spaghetti Bolognese.

Curries - dhal and rice, lots of lentils and chickpeas. Listen to my radio segment for my own personal memory of food in times of grief.

Eggs - boiled, scrambled, poached, the simplicity of basic foods is beautiful.

Buttered toast - I can definitely attest to this one. My mum used to make me toast with equal parts honey and butter, or sometimes, just plain white bread, buttered and sprinkled with white sugar on top.

Congee, or rice soup in multiple cultures - starchy, rich, savoury goodness.

Chicken - roasted, Hainanese style and even fried.

Soups and stews - Ugly delicious at its best.

Celebrating The Lunar New Year With The Star

Published: The Star Magazine February 2019

Published: The Star Magazine February 2019

It’s the year of the pig, if you follow the Chinese zodiac. What does it mean? Just like those juicy, sweet little porcine beauties, the year is set to be prosperous one, full of fortune and luck. Along with the very fabulous Dami Im, I spoke to journalist Penny Carroll about what symbolic foods you should have on the table during the Lunar New Year to encourage good health, longevity and prosperity.

Dami Im The Star Interview Lunar New Year

Melissa Leong Joins ABC Radio Melbourne Afternoons as a Regular Guest

Afternoons with Richelle Hunt Wednesday 23 January, 2019

Afternoons with Richelle Hunt Wednesday 23 January, 2019

Throughout 2018, I had such fun occasionally popping up on the ABC Radio Melbourne with Richelle Hunt on her Afternoons program. So I am THRILLED to announce that in 2019, I will be a series regular on her show, to talk about food, social politics and the media. Click the above link to hear our chat this week; from the #10yearChallenge, to why it’s more than just trivial that Sandra Oh is having her time in the Hollywood sun, we talk about Lo Mai Gai, our favourite home cooking recipes…and our shared nostalgia over the local neighbourhood pharmacy.

TV host says Sandra Oh’s Golden Globes victory gives her hope for greater representation in Aussie media

Published on Draw Your Box, January 7, 2019

Published on Draw Your Box, January 7, 2019

Pop culture may seem trivial but then again, so much in this world is right now. So we take the good where we can get it, and today that came in the form of the incredible Canadian actor Sandra Oh, not only hosting the Golden Globe Awards, but winning Best Female TV Actor. In doing so, she became the first Asian woman in 38 years to win the award.

Months ago when the film adaptation of the book Crazy Rich Asians was released, I wondered why it hit me so emotionally to see female lead Constance Wu on the cover of Time Magazine. Then I read an interview with Sandra Oh by The Hollywood Reporter and it all made sense.

“Just speaking for my own community, people cried a lot in [‘Crazy Rich Asians’], and it’s not only because it’s a great story and a classic romantic comedy — it is  because seeing yourself reflected onscreen is really emotional when you don’t even know that you’re carrying so much grief of never  being seen.”

To be seen, regardless of who you are, is to matter. Oh’s words resonate with so many because we all need to feel like the space we take up in this world means something. This conversation we’ve been having in popular culture about diversity isn’t a novelty to ping ratings, or to push an agenda. It’s a far-to-late one, highlighting the need to represent our world for who we are. All of us. Every face, race and perspective.

Thank you to the fabulous website Draw Your Box, for pushing the conversation forward for women of colour, and for mentioning my little social media fist pump on the Divine Lady Oh’s many reasons to celebrate right now in this moment.

Click here to read the article in full.

Sandra Oh made history today when she not only became the first Asian host of the Golden Globes, but also the first Asian woman to win Golden Globes in multiple categories.

The 47-year-old star scored the gong for Best Performance By An Actress in a Television Series — Drama  for her stellar performance in Killing Eve, and her win had quite the impact on other Asian women across the globe as social media has shown.

Melissa Leong,  host of SBS’ The Chef’s Line, praised Sandra’s victory and highlighted the importance of greater representation on screen in not only Hollywood, but the Australian TV and film industry.

“Each win like Sandra Oh’s night at The Golden Globes is not only a win for extremely hard earned talent, but in some way, for everyone who feels seen in that public acknowledgement,” wrote the Singaporean-Chinese presenter.

“It gives me hope that Australia will one day catch up and represent us publicly in a more honest and accurate way…because we are STILL so far from being there yet.”

As host of the Golden Globes, Sandra had the opportunity to pay tribute to films such as Crazy Rich Asians, Black Panther and BlacKkKlansman that have changed Hollywood’s landscape this year.

She also acknowledged her greater involvement in the awards show playing a part in making change.

“I said yes to the fear of being on this stage tonight because I wanted to be here to look out into this audience and witness this moment of change,” she emotionally admitted

“Next year could be different … but right now, this moment is real. Trust me, it is real.”

Congrats Sandra on a very well deserved win.

All About Slovenia on ABC Radio

Image: Luxury Escapes

Image: Luxury Escapes

When you tell people you get to travel for work, people usually ask “How do I get that job?” To which I usually answer… “You’ll have to fight me for it!” For as long as I have thought about what I want to do for work when I grew up, I have wanted travel to be a part of that. Recently, Luxury Escapes sent me to Slovenia to write a story for Delicious Magazine and, spoiler alert, it was bloody amazing. You’ll be able to read about it in an upcoming issue in 2019 but for now, I spoke to Richelle Hunt on ABC Radio Melbourne about my trip - good notes for my upcoming deadline!

It is an excellent place to road trip, but if you want a more curated tour of this incredible country, click here to find out how you can skip the queue for Hiša Franko (and get an inside look at this magical place from the experts who know everyone on the ground).

Click below to listen.

Aired November 26, 2018 2.00pm

Aired November 26, 2018 2.00pm

Melbourne Farewells A Hospitality Legend

Image: ABC News

Image: ABC News

Many of us have taken a moment to absorb some meaning and sentiment from the tragic loss of Sisto Malaspina, co-owner of Melbourne icon Pellegrini’s. Almost every visitor to, or resident of this city has a story, a memory of Sisto’s hospitality, warmth and generosity. If nothing else, this is the stuff that connects us and makes the industry of hospitality so crucial, especially in times of uncertainty, fear and doubt.

You of watermelon granitas and spaghetti bolognese and big smiles, thank you for living the benchmark of what true hospitality is about.

Joe Jones and I headed into the ABC Radio Melbourne studios today to talk about what Sisto’s passing has meant for the hospitality community and for the city in general…and how should all be a little more like Sisto.

Click below to listen to the podcast.

November 12, 2018

November 12, 2018

The Cool Career

I had a SUPER FUN chat to The Cool Career, a website dedicated to helping girls leaving school to find the tools, guidance and inspiration to reach for the stars… I certainly wish something like this existed when I was leaving high school! I talk about how I got to where I am now, my mistakes and lessons learnt…and advice I’d give 15 old me, if I had the chance. Enjoy!

Let’s cut to the chase. I want to be Melissa Leong.

Never before on The Cool Career have we met a woman with THIS MUCH ADVICE. Her tips, her must have resource list, and contact list is simply put… mandatory reading. When it comes to food in Australia, there isn’t much Melissa hasn’t put her finishing touch on. A freelance food + travel writer, food media consultant, radio broadcaster, television presenter, MC and cookbook editor, this first generation Singaporean Australian isn’t afraid to consume anything at least once. Love her!

The Cool Career ABOUT

Her insatiable career is drizzled with ferociousness, and served piping hot with so many lessons for all you budding presenters and media personalities. In this #careerstory we take you back to the very beginning, but also give you a glimpse of the big things to come, because there is no way that Melissa Leong is going to slow down. 

Scroll down to get the entire scoop. 

Please meet Melissa Leong…

Melissa, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule for this interview. Can you take us to the start of your journey? 

I grew up in the suburbs of southern Sydney in a place that’s come to be known as The Shire. Being one of only two Chinese families who went to my primary school, it wasn’t what you would call the most diverse of peer groups, but being different from the start was galvanising for me. I took pride in everything I could do that others couldn’t, and learnt to celebrate what made me, me.

From being on track to be a concert pianist, to ballet, athletics and academics, I enjoyed playing with the over achieving Asian stereotype, and I found through owning it, people come to accept who you are and even celebrate that. That hasn’t changed in my world of work – I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, but the strength in self believe and making it work that I cultivated as a kid has served me well in what my career has become.

Where did you go to High School and how was that experience for you?

I went to High School at The Inaburra School, a media specialist school in the southern suburbs of Sydney. It’s a Baptist private school, so it was pretty heavy on the religious front, but what I loved was that it was small enough for teachers and students to really come to understand each other and we were given a fair degree of independence to explore our interests and skills. I held a regional school music scholarship for part of the time I was there and was always involved in the orchestra and other musical groups, which was a great way of being involved. We also had a feeder program into a show that was on SBS, so a lot of us ended up learning to present, edit, film and direct early on…which, now as part of my job involves being a television presenter, has come full circle in a way!

I love that from an early age you realised just how important it is to own yourself and your differences. So, let’s chat high school. Did your high school play an important role in helping you choose your further education and future career?

The short answer is ‘not really’. I had a hopeless careers councillor who believed that you had to choose a job from a careers book and was thoroughly confused when presented with me, because I could have gone in a number of directions. I never wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer specifically, and I was on track to attend the Conservatorium of Music as a concert pianist if I wanted to, but in the end, I developed an injury in my shoulder that made that decision pretty clear.

I chose to go to Sydney University and study Economics because I figured it would be an open enough degree to let me explore my options and figure out where to from there. I ended up graduating with a double degree in Economics and Social Sciences, which turned out to be a good general undergraduate degree because I was able to chart my course through language, politics, economics, anthropology and sociology… all very valuable skills for the business of ‘adulting’.

Did you complete any internships or work experience placements in high school? Tell us about that experience.

My first placement was with Cleo Magazine. I loved fashion and still do…a lot! Interning is equal parts what you make of it, and who is responsible for you. If you’re lucky, and you show some initiative, people will trust you with getting involved in things that are interesting and engaging, and it was a good first look at magazine journalism in the lifestyle space.

Did you go to College, University, Tafe or another equivalent? Take us through the courses that you studied and why you chose them? 

I have an undergraduate double degree from Sydney University in Economics and Social Sciences, with a focus in HR, Political Economy and Asian Studies. I started out as a straight B. Ec. Which I felt was too dry and directional, but augmenting my degree allowed me to study what I was probably more interested in, which is cultural, language and human studies. Why we do what we do, and did what we did and how that influences the world around us, to me, is far more interesting and philosophical…maybe less direct in terms of career prospects, but I found it enriching and that it informs a lot of how I navigate the world now. If nothing else, university is an excellent place to learn to think independently and not be afraid of that. 

Couldn’t agree more. so what about present day? Tell us about your career journey so far. Who you have worked for, and explain any highlights.

That’s a long winded path! I actually ended up with more work as a professional make up artist when I graduated because I was working for Clinique and MAC at the time and friends who had finished film degrees needed help making work. I fell into that world for a few years which was fun and creative, but ultimately not intellectually stimulating enough for me.

I ended up working for a media buying tech company and spent a lot of time travelling to Asia for work, which really grew my sense of independence and lust for solo travel. Ultimately I ended up in advertising, working for companies like Singleton Ogilvy Interactive and The Works, producing and copywriting for brands like Coca Cola, Nokia and LG which is where food comes into it. This was the dawn of social media and we were all compelled to get involved…I chose food as a subject to engage in digital communities with, and through learning to communicate efficiently, I became a writer.

I started freelancing for magazines as a critic and did that in tandem for a few years before I finally quite and went full time freelance. I ended up turning those food contacts into a restaurant and food industry PR consultancy which lasted a about 5 years before I realised I missed writing. I moved to rural Tasmania for a break, which was about the time I was approached to co-write a book, and the whole thing snowballed back into journalism and food writing and now, television. My journey has been very non-strategic and highly based on intuition and gut-feel, but it’s an exercise in saying yes to opportunities that truly excite you, to always learn from those around you and to bite off more than you can chew.

You will wither swallow it eventually, or spit it out and move on!

How did you get into the job that you are in now?

I have worked for myself for the last decade. As a freelancer, I write for publications like Delicious Magazine, The Guardian and, as a consultant I’ve worked with brands like Adriano Zumbo and Gelato Messina, in publishing, I’ve co-written, ghost written, sub edited or edited about 5 cookbooks and have just finished filming season 2 of The Chefs’ Line for SBS. Freelancing means hard work and working constantly – its not for lazy people or procrastinators. You are responsible for yourself, sometimes a handful of employees, paying your own super, and nobody pays you when you’re sick. It’s a commitment but if you are an independent thinker and you love something enough, you can make it work.

What is the hardest part of your current job?

Freelance is hard in general! You are the one networking for jobs, putting yourself out there and paying the bills. But if you love bringing your own world to life and driving your own machine then it can be really lucrative and satisfying, too.

What does a day a typical business day look like for you in your current job?

There is no typical day! I could be on a shoot for a cooking show, doing interviews with press, interviewing subjects for stories, on set for 16 hours shooting a television show, travelling somewhere new in the world to write about it… I get bored with repetition, so it’s perfect for me. I’m about to head to Slovenia for a travel story next week… that’s not a bad job assignment to have!

Slovenia, so jealous, that’s amazing Melissa. Who has been your hero, or greatest inspiration growing up and why?

The thing about becoming a grown up is that you learn not to have heroes. Heroes are not people, but an ideal constructed in a moment of time. The person you look to as a hero, is still a human who makes mistakes as well as moments of greatness, so ultimately placing that kind of pressure on someone isn’t fair, or real. Inspiration can come from anywhere, but for me, I am inspired by the idea of creative and financial freedom, of doing something well and feeling satisfied by that. My parents worked extremely hard and migrated from Singapore to Australia to give my brother and I the best shot at the best life possible, and that’s always in the back of my mind… take opportunities that are given to you with grace and do them justice.

What advice would you give girls who are interested in your career?

Work hard and be a nice person. You never know if that assistant on a job will become your next boss, or if you will become theirs. It’s a very simple premise but will always serve you well. Media and the food industry are hard places and when everyone wants your job, it can get deeply competitive. Be prepared to be told no, be prepared to feel lonely, but try to always surround yourself with people of all industries, and friends who will always cheer for your success and be there for you when the chips are down. Everyone needs to find their tribe.

List your most valuable resources that you turn to constantly for inspiration in your profession?

Hungry for more? 

Visit Melissa by her website HERE and via her awesome instagram HERE.

Body + Soul: Healthy-ish Podcast

Published: November 9, 2018 Body + Soul

Published: November 9, 2018 Body + Soul

The lovely crew at Body + Soul had me in to chat about what it’s like when food is work and work is life… spoiler alert: it’s all about balance (something I don’t always get right!). Read the interview below, and listen to my chat with legend radio woman Maz Compton and Dr Andrew Rochford! I promise there will be snacks!

Fact one: The average healthy female will consume a minimum of 730,000 calories a year.

Fact two: The average person will also spend a staggering 32,098 hours eating in their lifetime.

Two facts that hold two very large numbers; but what happens when you factor in a job that pays you to eat?

Firstly, it’s pretty much certain that you’d have to multiply those numbers by 10, but it’s also guaranteed those numbers on the scales would look a little frightening.

Living the life of a food writer sounds like the ultimate dream job, but when it comes to attempting to stay healthy, it’s definitely no easy feat. Just ask the ultimate foodie Melissa Leong, who had to learn the hard way.

“I started in my late 20s and I thought my metabolism was fine – I can eat everything, I can do all the things,” the TV presenter on SBS Australia’s The Chef’s Line tells co-hosts Dr Andrew Rochford and Maz Compton in the latest episode of podcast Healthy-ish: Why does our social life revolve around food?

“I would have these massive eating sessions with my chef friends where we’d go out for a whole day and eat all of the things, and it never occurred to me once that all of my friends are dudes who are six-foot-something or 150 kilos – I would just match them to the toe.”

It wasn’t until Melissa was in her early thirties did she realise her amazing job was taking a toll on her health.

“My metabolism wasn’t the same as what it was and I didn’t look the same anymore, and that was a really sobering thing to realise,” the foodie recalls.

So how in the world does she stay healthy when her life revolves around indulging in food all day long?

Between running to and fro around the globe as a freelance food and travel writer, media consultant, radio broadcaster, TV presenter and cookbook editor, Melissa somehow makes sure she fits in a Pilates session whenever she has the time.

And when it comes to her diet, it’s all about planning, balance, and listening to her body.

“If I’m eating out professionally, if I’m going out to restaurants all day, then the days that I’m not it’s really simple things.”

While she admits she loves pasta, cake and bread (girlfriend, we hear you), she understands it “doesn’t agree” with her body so she tries to minimises complex carbs when she can, and instead focuses on lots of protein and veg.

“It’s about cooking for yourself because you know what you’re putting into your food, and I know what works for me.”

But the foodie doesn’t praise home-cooked food only for its healthiness; yes, she’s tasted almost every dish to grace this planet and dined at the finest restaurants around the world, but it’s the soul and heart of her mother’s homemade meals that trump every dish she’s ever critiqued.

“My mum’s Hainanese chicken and rice is a cracker of a dish, but it’s nostalgic, and I would definitely eat this as my last meal for sure.”

Want to hear more about what life’s like living as a food and travel writer? Find out in episode 37 of our podcast Healthy-ish. Listen above, at Apple iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

How To Entertain Like A Restaurant Architect

Published November 2017

Published November 2017

From my family to yours, as featured in delicious. Magazine’s annual Entertaining Issue.

Pascale Gomes-McNabb is the creative force behind some of Australia’s most stylish restaurants, but how does this architect design the ultimate long lunch? A few heavy-hitting culinary cohorts don’t hurt. Food and travel writer Melissa Leong happens to be one of them and she saved us a seat at the party.

The average Australian diner may not know Melbourne-based architect Pascale Gomes-McNabb by name, but they’ve certainly heard of the restaurants she’s had a hand in bringing to life. In designing high-profile establishments such as the original Cutler & Co. and Cumulus Inc. in Melbourne, Sydney’s Bentley Restaurant & Bar, Cirrus and Monopole, and SA’s Penfolds Magill Estate Restaurant (to name but a few), she’s had a hand in the way Australians dine at the top end of town.

We’re gathered at Pascale’s latest masterpiece – the North Melbourne terrace she calls home – to break in her new digs (not that these guys need much of an excuse to pop a bottle of Champagne). It’s full of her signature dark metals, contrasting textural finishes and pops of colour by way of bowerbird curios.

The guests include chef Matt McConnell of Bar Lourinhã; his wife and business partner, Jo Gamvros; close friend Linda Jones of Alimentari; Felix Allsop of cocktail bar The Everleigh; his mate Joe Jones from cocktail bar Romeo Lane and restaurant The Mayfair… and yours truly.

Matt’s eclectic Latin-spiked cuisine displays an ease and generosity of flavour, with an uncomplicated style that belies the extensive experience he’s picked up from his travels and years spent overseas. “Fun is kind of crucial,” he adds.

Cocktails are mixed by former chef Joe Jones, who has built his drinks career on elegantly simple beverages with classic roots and minimal fuss.

There’s a sign at Bar Lourinhã that reads ‘Good Times’, and those are certainly had every time these friends get together.


“We don’t do minimalism here,” says Jo. “Our collective style is loud, unapologetically bold and colourful.” Pascale favours striking jewellery such as her evil bunny ring by Emma Abrahams from Heart of Bone, while metallic threads and big prints are offset by the odd neutral for balance. Jewel-toned flowers against a dark backdrop add drama to the table.


It’s all about easy, shareable, seasonal food that’s big on flavour, colour and texture. Vibrant bottarga shaved over potato, a summer-worthy skirt steak bathed in mojo verde, and subtle seafood offset by smoky chilli and rich slivers of lardo.


Corn crisps, steak tartare and smoked herring roe



Scallop, lardo and smoky chilli



Whiting crudo with radish



Seared skirt steak, mojo verde and shaved horseradish



Stracciatella, pickled carrot and fennel



Potato 'salad', vinegar, bottarga


Orange caramel molotovs



From Marvin Gaye and Grace Jones’ My Jamaican Guy to Michael Jackson’s Beat It and satanic pop rock by Ghost, with a little Nancy Sinatra thrown in for good measure, the tunes are as eclectic as the group’s style.


“Always start and end with bubbles!” yells Linda.

Punchbowl cocktails scream party fun and are a great way to make cocktails an easy affair when entertaining.


Beehive punch


A twist on everyone’s favourite, the Negroni, is also perfect, even outside aperitivo hour.


Tequila negroni