real life

MasterChef's Poh only gets four hours of sleep a night and we don't know how she does it.

Poh is such a well-known Australian that she’s known by one name, like Madonna or Elle or Kylie.

She is so cheeky and creative, and stole our hearts on the very first MasterChef, over eight years ago.

Since then, Poh’s written a cookbook for children, hosted a couple of TV shows, become quite the artist, runs a patisserie, and of course, just like the rest of us, she’s juggling. She’s juggling her cooking career goals, a love life and family.

If you want to listen to the full episode of Poh on I Don’t Know How She Does It, you can right here. (Post continues after audio.)

Alissa: Let’s kick off with your day. What time do you wake up?

Poh: For my entire life I’ve suffered from never having a routine. I’m just one of those horrible, chaotic people. My days can start anywhere from four to five o’clock if I’m working at the cafe.

Alissa: Do you put makeup on before you go?

Poh: Yeah, I’m 44. I used to be a makeup artist, so I am really good at just filling up the gaps.

Blush is always good. Blush, bronzer, and a bit of mascara and, then a bit of lipstick. I put lipstick on the cheeks and bit on the lips.

Alissa: First thing you do once you get up?

Poh: Cup of tea. Just black, but I go through stages in my tea when I’m obsessed with a tea for weeks and drink it all the time. I love herbal teas because I have all these herbal plants in my garden that I use for my tea.


Alissa: What’s your brekky?

Poh: Absolutely revolting. Sometimes it’s like a row of chocolate.

Actually, my beautiful husband Jonno, whenever he’s cooking baked beans with eggs on toast, I use whatever bread is leftover with honey.

Alissa: So many of us try to present this image that we’ve got it all together. And I love that you’re not portraying that image whatsoever. One of your Instagram posts, recently, was about your dinner and it looks amazing. Can you read your caption to it?

Poh: This is what I’m having for dinner. Oh, what is it? Can I have the recipe you ask? I would if I could.

But I was really busy editing my tits off on my next book and so I went to the Korean grocer down the road and bought two packets of some random instant hotpot mixed that I interpreted through pictures, which probably has tons of MSG in it.

Then I bunged into it tofu and a bunch of stuff I found the fridge and pantry. That being garlic, spring onions ginger, wombok, mushrooms, frozen clam meat, brown rice, quinoa and it’s damn nice #thehonesttruth.


Alissa: So, you’re obviously pretty busy, right?

Poh: I’m just finishing off my next book, which is out Christmas. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say it, but it’s about baking cakes. This is something lots of people don’t know about me but baking is actually my first love.

Alissa: You have so many things going on. For everybody reading and looking at your life on social media, how do you keep it together?

Poh: I have that little meltdowns all the time. It is really hard because I feel like a normal life is just so much harder these days. Everything is so fast-forwarded with technology. I’m always trying to talk myself into slowing things down.


Everywhere I look around me, I have friends and people who suffer from depression and anxiety. It’s because we’re not able to process life at this speed and live healthy mental lives. So, slow-mowing is having time to yourself.

For instance, I actually envy people who don’t have a cleaner and can do their own washing. For me, that’s, “You’ve got your shit together”. The more divorced you are from everyday life, the more you try and cram stuff in. You need those times in your life where you do mundane tasks so that you can actually process what’s going on around you. Do a bit of gardening, the laundry, or the dishes. Take the time to contemplate what matters to you.

Being in the media, there is an added pressure but I just try and keep things normal. I work at the cafe. I try to be normal.

Check out more of the weird and wonderful from Poh. Images via Instagram. (Post continues after gallery.)

Alissa: How do you deal with that?

Poh: Just be really nice and friendly. Most people are very lovely. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered anyone who’s been nasty or weird to me.

Sometimes, it’s hard because you do go through emotional issues or have a shitty day. Recently, a friend of mine passed away and this person still asked for a photo. I was like, “I kind of want to punch you right now.”


Alissa: Let’s talk about those mundane tasks that you do.

Poh: I need a paper diary. Out of sight, out of mind. I’m very visual, but even though I do have one, I only kind of use it. Sometimes, I have notes in my phone, which is like a vomit of ideas. But, I have the diary for all the important dates because I hate the reminders you get on your phone.

Alissa: Are you neat or clean?

Poh: I struggle to claim I can be either of those. I can let the house get into a disaster zone because something has got to give. And, then I’m polishing figurines and doing really unnecessary things. I do have a cleaner now, and I feel so guilty about it. But, I am so busy but it just keeps the house tidy during those hectic moments.

Alissa: Of course, there are days where you must be really flat out.

I pull many 16 hour days a week. I’ll go through huge periods of it for a month, and then I’ll fall in a heap for a few days. A couple of tips to managing that: I don’t iron, I hang. Jonno and I share the washing, and we often have to hang it out at midnight. Jonno also does a lot of the food shopping, but we have a good, shared system.

Alissa: How do you get time to do the books in the business?

Poh: Yeah, it’s really hard. One of the biggest fallacies of running a business is that it’s just fun and games. But, it’s hard work. It’s unrelenting.


As a presenter, people expect you to be what you are like on TV, which for the most part, I am. But, it’s really hard work and you have to always look like you are having fun.

Alissa: How do you keep it fun?

Poh: I love to laugh. I’m always laughing. I’ve always had a deep belief about only pursuing the things you are truly passionate about, love and enjoy doing. If you don’t, you just won’t ever be good at it. To maintain the stamina, you have to be constantly inspired and really, really have to love it.


Alissa: How do you unwind?

Poh: I love being a couch potato. We love the bit of good TV. We’re really into Black Sails, at the moment. I don’t usually have time but when we get into a good series, we always find a way to squeeze it in. I’m also one of those people who can function on four or five hours of sleep.

Alissa: What time do you get to bed at night?

Poh: Last night I went to bed at four. I actually have to omit sleep to get stuff done. I am editing my book at the moment, but that’s something I have always done since I was a kid. I think it’s do with the fact there’s no distractions, no admin – I can just really chill and get into what I am doing. And, Jonno goes to bed earlier than me, and I regularly wake him up.

He’s so lovely and he always goes to me, “Did you do good, my honey?” And I say, “Yeah I did.”

Alissa: How long have you guys been married?

Poh: We’ve actually been together for eight years, but we’ve only been married for three. We actually met on Master Chef. He was the production runner and he used to shuttle us back and forth from the house to the studio. We weren’t really allowed to talk because you can’t fraternise with the staff, otherwise they could tell you secrets.


2 more sleeps before Season 2 #pohandco airs on @sbsfood this Thursday 8.30pm! #sbsfood #rhinoandtim

A post shared by Poh Ling Yeow (@pohlingyeow) on

I think things got a little bit more charged because we weren’t allowed to talk to one another, it was like the playground. Then, after the show we hooked up. It was at a wrap party, we exchanged numbers right away, and it was all guns after that.

He came to Adelaide, but it was actually quite hard because it was long distance. I could never more to Sydney to be with him. I’m a real small town girl.


Alissa: I read that your ex-husband is your manager and also married to your best friend?

Poh: So, Matt and Sara, he’s my ex husband and she’s my best friend When we broke up they got together and it’s all dandy. He’s like a brother to me now. For about three years it just seemed like we were flatmates.

We were really good mates but couldn’t figure how to break up with one another. There was so much pressure from both sides of the family to have a child, but in our heads we knew we couldn’t bring a child into the world with our relationship. So, we broke up on good terms.

It was really hard. It’s not that I wish were still together, but there’s something about two humans just murdering each other like that. It’s so, so sad. When you just torment each other and destroy each other.

We’ve come full circle. Sometimes, people don’t know our history and I lose my shit at him. But, it’s just because we have such a history together.

Alissa: So, let’s talk about MasterChef.

Poh: I was a graphic designer and makeup artist during art school, but I was working full-time as a painter. I was probably about six years into my career and it was at a point where I needed to get a steady income. So, I started thinking about this food thing, and Sara randomly texted me saying I should sign up for MasterChef.


For some reason, she just thought I was going to go really far in it. I applied online and there were 37 comprehensive questions – I think they were trying to weed out the weirdos. There were over 7000 applicants, who were narrowed down to 100 in each state, and then 50 in each state were auditioned. The rest is history.

Alissa: Did you love it?

Poh: I loved it. I have such fabulous memories of MasterChef. It was actually really fun and it was a really important time in my life. I could have kept on painting and my career could have kept going steadily. I don’t know if my dreams of writing cookbooks would have ever come to be because you need a publisher.

Poh and Alissa Warren together. 

My mum and I had dreamt of writing a family cookbook for ages and I figured, even if I was on the show for five minutes, I could have a shot.

Alissa: Do you keep in touch with Julie Goodwin?

Poh: We do. We’re still really fond of each other. Both of us have very busy life, so it takes a little while but we give each other nudges like, “Hey man, I love you.”

You can’t help but be bonded with people that have gone through such a unique experience, with the stresses and pressures. You learn so much about yourself, as well on the show.

Alissa: Do you see any of the MasterChef judges?

Poh: Since I’ve had Jam Face, they pop in unannounced and just give me a heart attack. Matt, Gary and Shannon came and just popped in for breakfast and I wanted to make something special for them. It was really fun because I’ve never been so nervous making a stupid omelette.


Alissa: How is your food situation? Are you healthy?

Poh: Well, I’m not organised. I fluctuate and can be pretty naughty. I sometimes get pizza from around the corner and then I can also cook a really fancy meal. 

Alissa: What should people store in their fridge or freeze for a guaranteed good meal?

Poh: I just think Italian is awesome. I always have good quality Parmesan cheese. Tomatoes, which I usually grow in the garden. Some parsley and vegetables, too.

But, if I was to go through some nuclear situation and still survive my ingredient would be wombok. It’s just Chinese cabbage, you put it in your fridge for a month and I can also put it in a stir-fry, or salad.

Alissa: How would you describe your cooking style? What is your food philosophy?

Poh: It's really eclectic and very Australian because culturally, we are such a mixed bag. That's what our food reflects. One night you make moussaka, next night is pasta. When you go and visit other countries you realise how adventurous we are, here. We try anything. We cook anything, and that’s what I really love about Australians.


Alissa: How do you shake off the day?

Poh: There're lots of cuddles at my house, lot and lots of Cuddle. Cuddles with Jonno and cuddles with the dog. Everyone piles onto the couch in the TV room. I love watching renovation shows, lifestyle issues, cooking shows.

Alissa: What is your non-negotiable for your sanity?

Poh: I’m just a real homebody. So, if I had to travel a lot for work, I don’t think I could do it. I really like staying put and I really resist change. I’m very old-fashioned like that.


Alissa: What is your motto?

Poh: Give everything a red hot go, work hard.

That’s one thing I’m really good at, is never getting discouraged when there’s adversity. I’m a great believer that when one door closes, another one opens. I have seen it happen so many times to me to know that adversity is one thing that makes you grow, be inspired, and push beyond what you think you are capable of.

Alissa: What's your next big goal?

Poh: Just try and chill out a bit. It’s difficult working in the media because it’s like jumping off a freight train. When you have opportunities, you need to do them because you worry you’ll be irrelevant tomorrow. People will lose interest in me, but I feel comfortable now. I’m okay.

I really, really miss my family and friends. The last eight years have been my biggest sacrifice, not being there for my family and friends. And, I don’t manage it very well. Not turning up for birthdays or big life events. I have definitely lost friends over it.

I really want that because at the end of it, your friends and family are the ones there.

READ: Poh Ling Yeow’s ex husband married her best friend and she’s totally cool with it.