Asialink: Adam Liaw: “I thought to be Australian I had to be less Asian”

Adam Liaw Speech, The Asian Australian Leadership Summit (2019)

The Asian-Australian Leadership Summit (AALS) aims to put cultural diversity firmly on the agenda. The annual summit looks at why Australia has relatively few Asian Australians in senior leadership positions, and what needs to happen to break through the so-called “bamboo ceiling.”

About Adam

Adam Liaw (aged 43)  was born in Penang, Malaysia to a Malaysian Chinese father, Dr Siaw-Lin Liaw, and a Singaporean-born English mother, Dr Joyce Hill AM.  He is the second of three children, with an older brother and younger sister The family moved to Adelaide when Liaw was aged 3.After his parents divorced and his mother moved to New Zealand, Liaw lived with his paternal grandmother whom he credits with a huge influence on his cooking and his life.

Liaw completed Year 11 at Prince Alfred College at age 14 and enrolled in university at 16. He graduated with a double degree in Science and Law from the University of Adelaide at 21.

After graduation Liaw was employed by Kelly & Co Lawyers in Adelaide where he worked in technology, commercial/corporate law, business advisory and international trade. He was also a committee member, legal adviser and secretary of the Hong Kong Australia Business Association, assisting South Australian companies to expand their business into Hong Kong and mainland China. In 2004, Liaw moved to Japan where he worked in media law for The Walt Disney Company.


On 29 September 2009 Liaw announced via Twitter that he was considering auditioning for MasterChef.[10] In April 2010 he was announced as one of the top 24 finalists in MasterChef Australia, Season 2. Despite winning a challenge cooking the dishes of celebrity chefs, Liaw doubted he had sufficient technique to win the title.

On 22 July 2010 Liaw was the first challenger awarded a place in the grand finale.

On Sunday, 25 July 2010 he was announced the winner of MasterChef Australia, Season 2, defeating Callum Hann 89–82 for the title. His victory is still the most watched non-sporting television event in Australian history.

Aside from his winner’s book deal, Liaw is considering other business opportunities, including an izakaya restaurant with Tokyo-based Australian chef and friend Matthew Crabbe. On 17 September 2010 it was confirmed that Liaw and Crabbe would be joined by a third business partner, Nathan Smith.


As the winner of MasterChef Season 2, Liaw was given the opportunity to write his own cookbook. The book is called Two Asian Kitchens (ISBN 9781864711356), and was published by Random House Australia in April 2011. Split into two main sections – the Old Kitchen and the New Kitchen – Liaw explores recipes that he has grown up with, along with new creations. The book has received positive reviews in the Australian media.

Liaw has since published more cookbooks, Asian After Work (2013), Adam’s Big Pot (2014), Asian Cookery School (2015) and The Zen Kitchen (2016). He also writes for Fairfax newspapers’ Good Food, Sunday Life magazine and The Guardian. He used to write for The Wall Street Journal’s Scene Asia.

Television Presenter

On 14 March 2012, it was announced that Liaw had landed his own travel/food TV show, Destination Flavour, which aired on the SBS network in late 2012.[24] In August 2012 Destination Flavour premiered. This series was also co-hosted by Renee Lim and Lily Serna. In September 2013, Destination Flavour: Japan had its official launch on SBS ONE with Adam as the sole host,  followed by Destination Flavour: Down Under in September 2014. Destination Flavour: Scandinavia premiered on SBS Australia in 2016. “Destination Flavour: Singapore” premiered on SBS Australia in January 2017

In March 2017 “Hidden Japan with Adam Liaw” premiered on SBS Food Network.

On late 2020, Liaw hosted “Adam Liaw’s Road Trip for Good” on SBS Food. In 2021, he hosted a nightly cook show on SBS Food titled “The Cook Up with Adam Liaw.

Other Achievements

Liaw is also UNICEF Australia’s National Ambassador for Nutrition.

He is prolific on social media. BuzzFeed Australia listed ’19 Reasons You Need to Follow Aussie Chef Adam Liaw on Twitter and Instagram’,  and ’17 Times Aussie Chef Adam Liaw Nailed It on Social Media in 2015′ in December 2015.Adam Liaw was named by All Nippon Airways as the Culinary Ambassador for ANA Australia.

Extract taken from Wikipedia (open-source encyclopaedia). To read his full story, click here.

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Adam Liaw’s 2019 speech was hosted at the State Library of Victoria where  AALS brought together senior industry leaders, early and mid-career professionals, and key partners to create momentum for change, with the ultimate goal of greater representation of Asian-Australians across the country.
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