Jackie M has been a chef for more than 20 years promoting Asian cooking particularly Malaysian food in Australia. Her bigger achievement is to be able to juggle a demanding career and to allow her special child, Noah, to be a part of it.
These days, you can safely say celebrity chefs are almost a dime a dozen. But in that box full of copper coins there will bound to be some that peep up shining brighter than the rest. In the case of this particular celebrity chef Jackie M in Sydney, Australia, it’s more than just her platinum blond hair that stands out. It’s the whole list of accolades that she has earned from the media who touted her as Queen of Malaysian Cuisine, go-to solution for Malaysian Cuisine and The Gutsy Woman Who Popularised Malaysian Food in Sydney.
But the one that takes the cake is ‘Platinum Blond Bond Girl of Malaysian Street Food’. And it is by promoting Malaysian street food that first earned this celebrity chef cum TV presenter with 1.8 million followers from all over the world on Google+. She conducts classes on how to cook typical Malaysian recipes on Google+ hangouts.
Jackie is truly a “Buatan Malaysia” (Produce of Malaysia) as she was born in a small town, Seremban in the west coast of Malaysia. The teenager Jackie Tang, then, migrated to Australia with her family when she was 17 and eventually worked as an IT consultant after graduating from the university.
Honing whatever culinary skills she had acquired in her stepmother’s kitchen as a child, Jackie ditched the nine-to-five office job for the apron and the camera. Since then she has had quite a number of projects promoting street food in restaurants, markets, food fairs and on TV shows. Jackie was recently in Malaysia to shoot for her latest TV series Wok Around Asia.
This series take on an unusual slant in presenting food from the perspective of culture and a chef who is travelling with her 5-year-old son Noah who has Down’s Syndrome. “I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Southeast Asia on numerous occasions in the past, usually as a result of invitations from tourism bodies and international hotel chains, in exchange for live videos, online content and social media shares.
“This time around, I wanted to drive the focus towards not just food, but food through the lens of a cook travelling with a special needs kid. I pitched Wok Around Asia to Penang Global Tourism, Tourism Malaysia and a number of hotels in the region, and they were very receptive to it, so I managed to pull it all together fairly quickly” said Jackie.
Her culinary journey has taken her far and wide but she is unable to pinpoint which would be her favourite location. She, however, declares her sentimental attachment to Malaysia. “Having been born and raised there, there’s a level of familiarity and connection which allows me to hit the ground running every time I visit. I consider myself incredibly privileged to be able to share about and promote Malaysian food every chance I get; it’s one of those cuisines that I strongly feel is under-recognised in the West, partly because it’s a little bit hard to pin down,” she explained.
Despite all the others who have presented Asian food from various perspectives and across multiple platforms, Jackie feels that the difference she brings into the arena is that, “my passion is driven first of all, by the desire to honour my parents’ legacy as street food vendors back in the day in Seremban – I want to share the lives of these unsung heroes who work long, back-breaking hours to create some of the best food in the world without expecting fame or glory.”
“I also want to preserve the recipes from these street food traditions and make them accessible to the busy home cook without compromising on flavourand authenticity. My focus, therefore, is not just on where and what to eat, but also, how to recreate this when you go back to your home country.
“Overlaying all of this is how I manage to travel alone with a specialneeds kid – because I believe how I live my life gives those around me, who may one day face the same tough choices as I had to make with regards to Noah, permission, inspiration and drive to do the same.”
Jackie was offered by Google+ to do a live cooking demonstration show when her baby Noah was fighting for his life in hospital. It was her first big break and she couldn’t give it up. Eventually she pulled her act together and went ahead with the show. After much trials and persistence, Jackie got the show going.
Words by YY Chen