Poh helps out

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Television - LYNN CAMERON

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

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