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MasterChef Australia's Reynold Poernomo On 'How Tough It Can Be As An Immigrant Kid'

The cooking show contestant said he struggled after moving to Australia from Indonesia with his family at age four.

As his cooking career has progressed over the past few years, ‘MasterChef Australia’ star Reynold Poernomo has also focused on exploring his cultural identity.

The 26-year-old said being “an immigrant kid” was “tough” after he moved to Australia from Indonesia with his family at age four. Feeling “Australian and not really much Indonesian” after years of living in Sydney, he has more recently taken steps to reconnect with his culture.

Speaking to HuffPost Australia on Monday, Reynold said the ‘family memories’ challenge this season where he was shown a childhood photo was an emotional and “important” opportunity to speak about his heritage.

“Well, I couldn’t hide it. As soon as I saw the photo, it really struck me,” said Reynold, saying he was touched by how many viewers related.

“It’s interesting to see a lot of migrants have similar stories of similar upbringings and that’s how a lot of us connect – because it comes from humble beginnings.”

During his younger years in Indonesia, Reynold’s parents ran a restaurant called ‘Bali Sunrise’. After arriving in Australia, he didn’t return to where he was born till he finished school.

“It is really important to share with Australia and the world how tough it can be as an immigrant kid to adjust yourself to a new world and a new culture,” he said.

“For me as an Indonesian coming to Australia, I didn’t go back to Indonesia for about 14 years. And I kind of lost my roots of my Indonesian background.”

This led to Reynold questioning his personal and professional identity.

“I wasn’t really sure what kind of cook I was, what kind of person I was culturally. So it was a mix of Australian and not really much Indonesian.”

More recently the celebrity chef has been visiting Indonesia, learning more about its cuisine and reconnecting with cultural customs.

“Now I feel like I’m slowly getting back into my roots, understanding more about where I came from and why I love a lot of Asian food and Indonesian food and what I can do with that in my cooking,” he explained.

Last year he spoke about learning Bahasa, the traditional language spoken in Indonsia.

“The reason why I don’t tend to speak in Bahasa much or have denied that I can speak Bahasa is because I’m still learning,” Reynold explained in the caption of a YouTube video published in March 2019.

“I moved into Australia when I was 4 yrs old and stopped speaking and English became my primary language and still is.

“Since I’ve met my girlfriend Chelia, I’ve been able to speak in Bahasa again although am still learning. It’s just easier to say that I can’t speak in Bahasa than to try and process the conversation and only understanding half of it.”

Reynold became a household name on Australian TV and was dubbed the ‘Dessert King’ after appearing in season seven of ‘MasterChef Australia’ in 2015.

On Sunday night he competed in the semi-final against Laura Sharrad and Emelia Jackson, however couldn’t quite impress judges Andy Allen, Melissa Leong and Jock Zonfrillo enough to stay in the competition.

The ‘MasterChef Australia: Back To Win’ grand finale airs tonight at 7:30pm on Channel 10.

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