After winning an Immunity Pin right off the bat, Tommy took to Instagram to pen a few words on why it means so much to him to cook Vietnamese-inspired dishes.
“Growing up I would have never shared a dish even remotely similar to today’s dish,” he said. “I was always cautious about bringing foods to school that weren’t “smelly” because I was scared it could be used as ammunition for bullying.
“I did this not only for food but for a lot of things growing up and it changed the way I thought about my cultural identity. I pushed anything that was Vietnamese about me out and decided that it would never be useful.
“It was a terrible way of thinking and I’m often quite sad about why I used to think that way. I started to grow out this kind of thinking when I moved to Japan about 5 years ago but the real transformation happened sometime last year in the last season of MC.”
He went on to explain how during his first run on MasterChef, he came into it with “nothing in my food armoury, absolutely nothing.”
“I failed a lot at the beginning cooking random things here and there but started to notice that the judges absolutely loved it when ever I cooked something from my heritage - I honestly couldn’t believe it,” he said.
“They loved everything about the Vietnamese food that I used to hide from everyone else, it blew my mind. Getting praised for my culture was absolutely invigorating for me, it breathed a new passion into me that never knew I had…”
He ended his open letter with: “I hope my journey this season gives you the courage to fully embrace your own culture and identity and be authentically yourself.”
Adding another special touch is that while Tommy is largely self-taught, he credits his Mum with teaching him the basics in Vietnamese cooking.
Outside of the kitchen, Tommy loves nothing more than hanging out with his wife Wendy and two-year-old son Miles.
As for what he hopes to achieve after MasterChef, Tommy dreams of producing a cooking and travelling show in Vietnam one day.