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The New Paper
June 29, 2016
In the latest and eighth season of reality TV cooking series MasterChef Australia, there are two contestants in the top 24 who are not only born in Singapore, but also happen to be siblings.
With their family, Jimmy Wong, 49, and Theresa Visintin, 44, moved to Kitchener-Waterloo, Canada, for a few years before relocating to Australia when they were young.
Wong is a sustainability specialist and has been based in Asia for the past 20 years - the last six of which were spent in Singapore - and Visintin is a stay-home mother of three in Vancouver, Canada.
Brother and sister decided to audition for the show together.
MasterChef Australia 8 is judged by Gary Mehigan, Matt Preston and George Calombaris, with Australian chef Shannon Bennett reprising his role as mentor for the immunity challenges.
It premieres on July 4 at 8pm on Lifetime (StarHub TV Ch 514).
The experience of filming MasterChef Australia in Melbourne for about four months was especially tough for Visintin, who had to leave her three children, aged 18, 16, and 14, behind in Vancouver.
She told M over the phone from Vancouver: "I feel embarrassed to say it, but I was so excited about auditioning and trying to get on (the show). But when I got in and I got on the plane to go home to get my things, I cried all the way.
"I just kept thinking, 'How can I leave them if I have never left them before?' So it was really hard for me to think about how long I would be away."
Wong, a bachelor, said in a separate phone interview from Sydney: "We all love food, but obviously, for the show, there are a lot of commitments that we have to agree to and one of them is leaving our loved ones behind and focusing on food."
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE TO COMPETE WITH YOUR SIBLING?
Wong: It was a lot of pressure. If you're ever in a position where you have all these pressures on you, like time, having to be creative and also to compete against your loved one, with the result of one of you being potentially chopped from the show... it's a hard thing.
But we spoke earlier on and we just wanted to give everything we have.
We would be happy for each other for whoever who wins and we would also be happy with whatever the results are as long as we go in there with integrity and cook with our heart.
Visintin: The bad thing is that the pressure is so intense. The good thing is that I do end up zoning out and I don't really have the time to think outside of what I'm making in that moment.
So I think as far as cooking goes, we are just trying to do our best, but afterwards, it's difficult because when I'm getting feedback for my dish, my heart is beating quicker not just for myself, but for my brother as well because my heart is always hoping for Jimmy to be happy. That was definitely difficult because it added emotion to all the pressure.
WHICH EPISODE WAS THE MOST MEMORABLE ONE FOR YOU?
Wong: I have to say episode one, which was the judges' audition - reason being we put our heart and soul into it, to have this experience with my sister and the loved ones around us and also being able to cook in a way which showed who we are and I guess the newness of the whole competition. That to me was the best and most memorable time of my life so far.
Visintin: Definitely the auditions. I think just getting in, like the excitement leading up to thinking that it was possible to get on this amazing show I've admired all these years
And when they told me that I was in the top 24, that was crazy. I can't describe that feeling. It's like, 'What! Me?'
WHO IS THE BETTER COOK?
Wong: Because of my competitive nature, I'm going to say me. But Theresa is an incredible family cook and she has so much to give.
I think we cook differently, but in my style, I'd like to think that I cook very well, but Theresa smashes it every single time.
Visintin: (Laughs) I think we are different. If you want a nice home-cooked lasagne or baked bread, that's me. If you want a nice pretty dish that's got little fancy things on it, that's Jimmy.
WHAT ARE YOUR SPECIALTY DISHES?
Wong: I love well-plated, beautiful food... the whole experience of eating with your eyes and also the pairing of flavours.
I love Japanese food because it's a great way to showcase the beauty of food and the ingredients and present it beautifully on the plate.
Visintin: Laksa and Italian dishes like gnocchi and pastas. I love playing with dough, whether it's making pastry, pasta or a cake.