Sri Lankan-born Minoli De Silva’s powerful MasterChef story

What would you say to a feast of perfectly cooked fluffy rice, kiwi curry, chicken curry, thick eggplant curry, coconut sambol and onion sambol? Well, the judges said yes!

The thirteenth series of the Australian cooking game show MasterChef Australia premiered on 19 April 2021.

Sri Lankan-born 34-year-old Chemical Engineer Minoli De Silva’s appreciation for food took a new turn after she lost her sense of taste at age 31.

In 2017, the avid culinary artist was disgnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, which resulted in her losing her taste buds. In a first look at some of the 2021 contestants which dropped in March, De Silva shared: “It slowly started to come back and it’s given me a whole new insight into the flavour and an understanding of the food that I never had before”. She said it was like finding out the nuances of flavour all over again.

The proud South Asian Australian is just as big a fan of travel and culture, as she is food.

Born in Sri Lanka, Minoli was six when her family moved to Melbourne, but the culinary delights of her homeland infused her childhood. Growing up, Minoli’s mother would use seasonal produce to prepare delicious Sri Lankan curries and often cooked with lesser-known ingredients including chicken giblets, bitter gourd, jackfruit and dried fish. The eldest of three sisters, Minoli says it’s no surprise her favourite dish to cook is a Sri Lankan chicken curry using a recipe passed down from her mum.

With food idols including Yotam Ottolenghi, Samin Nosrat and Massimo Bottura, Minoli dreams of one day cooking in Sicily, impressed by how the town is so beautifully influenced from different regions of the world. She cites her experience in Japan as a teenager as mindblowing, as she was stunned by the cuisine and culture.

While international chefs excite her, there’s nobody she loves watching in the kitchen more than her mum. Minoli says it’s her mum who can turn any humble vegetable or fruit into a tasty dish, teaching her daughter to trust her palate and always focus on flavour.

After graduating from Lowther Hall Anglican Grammar in 2004, Minoli completed her Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from RMIT University.

Now based in Darwin, Minoli works as an engineering portfolio manager, and leads the Northern Territory team delivering projects across all the NT Defence Estates.

When she’s not cooking, Minoli enjoys sewing, Latin dancing, camping and painting, and hopes to open her own pop-up Sri Lankan fusion restaurant.