Poh helps out
FROM the streets of Adelaide to the slums of Cambodia, chef Poh Ling Yeow is stepping out of the kitchen, and her comfort zone, in her new series, Poh’s Kitchen Lends a Hand.
The new six- part series, which launches on Tuesday, sees Poh work with the homeless in Melbourne, people with disabilities in Adelaide and a community ravaged by bushfire in Victoria, as well as a the rubbish dump kids of Phnom Penh.
It’s a world away from previous series of Poh’s Kitchen, not to mention her recent appearance on Channel 10’ s MasterChef All Stars which, Poh says, is exactly the point of the show.
‘‘ There’s been so much of a focus on celebrity chefs and high- end cooking that I felt like there was a real need to make cooking all about food in the context that it is for most people – the more marginalised members of our community,’’ Poh says.
‘‘ I wanted food to be seen as a really basic element of life, rather than being the glamorous side of life, because it’s not like that for most people.’’
The series begins on the streets of Melbourne, where Poh joins a community program called Streat, which is giving the city’s homeless youth a chance to come in from the edge of society.
Participants work in a local cafe, preparing, serving and creating dishes.
As part of the episode, two of the project’s teenage boys give Poh a tour of their life on the streets.
‘‘ The thing I found really confronting about that was thinking, ‘ Wow, for a child to leave home and choose this, it must mean that the home is in a pretty dire situation’,’’ Poh says.
‘‘ To leave that for a life of complete uncertainty, not knowing where to find food, shelter, safety – because the streets are full of substance abuse and violence – for them to choose that must mean home is in a pretty bad situation.
‘‘ The thing that’s really heartbreaking is that you know that all they want is to be accepted at home – that innate desire all of us have to be accepted by Mum and Dad.’’
One of Poh’s more heart- warming experiences was in Adelaide at Bedford, a company that offers employment to people with disabilities, where she and two members of staff were given the task of preparing a wedding cake in just two days.
‘‘ It was just pure joy to be there,’’ Poh says. ‘‘ What struck me the most was that feeling of unconditional love. No one judges and there are few places in the world you can feel that.’’
Poh’s trip to Cambodia, on the other hand, was a vastly different experience.
‘‘ It was emotionally, physically and philosophically really challenging,’’ she says.
‘‘ Meeting these kids that have absolutely nothing, and seeing a really small child pulling a huge bag of rubbish on his back and smiling and laughing and saying hello to you and wanting a hug from you is just heart- wrenching.
‘‘ You had a lump in your throat the whole time. The average income there is about $ 1 a day – it puts things into perspective. It makes you question your own problems and to see how the other half lives makes you constantly have a reality check and make sure you have gratitude for what you have.’’ POH’S KITCHEN LENDS A HAND, ABC1, Tuesday, 8pm