Sofia Levin is no stranger to Broadsheet. The Melbourne journalist has been writing about food since 2013, including opinion pieces such as this love letter to Melbourne and the recent Is Burrata Actually Boring?.

In 2021, Levin launched The Seasoned Traveller, a website and newsletter covering the cultural diversity of food, encouraging readers to try dishes outside of their comfort zone.

Last year, she joined us on Around Town to talk about a transcendent stir fry she ate in Thailand. Now, she’s back to talk about being one of three new judges on Masterchef season 16, alongside Poh Ling Yeow and Jean-Christophe Novelli Masterchef isn’t her first TV appearance either – you may have seen her on Postcards and The Cook Up with Adam Liaw, and some Broadsheet videos too.

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On why she chose food journalism

One of the last places my girlfriend and I went on this backpacking adventure was Morocco. We’d been around Europe, and it was amazing, but the contrast of being in a market in Marrakesh and seeing the aromatic piles of spices, the smoke and the snake charmers; it was actually like being in Aladdin, one of my favourite Disney movies of all time.

It just left such an impression on me. The way that everybody was hassling us to eat this and try whatever they had in front of them. Me being me, I decided to work backwards. I was like, right, how can I do this for a job and use my skill set? That’s when I went back home and switched my major subject to journalism. I’ve been writing ever since.

On needing to know ‘the why’

I have always been interested in trying new things, especially when it comes to eating. And I love context. I’ve always needed to know ‘the why’. It’s probably why I ended up here. It’s not just, “here’s this coffee”. It’s “who made it and what was their story? Why is it so good?” Or, “why is it not so good?”

…That led me to focus more on places that weren’t getting so much media attention. [Places] that could be considered ‘the little guys’ or that maybe existed for migrant or other communities, to feed these people what made them feel loved, safe, and at home. And then in the same breath, while they exist for these little pockets, that doesn’t mean they’re exclusive to them. It just means you have to go there yourself if you want to experience them. And then you’re welcomed with open arms.

On her new gig on Masterchef

The contestants are all really different, whether it’s cultural background or age or their skill set and style. But it’s amazing to see people, yes from major cities in Australia, but also the far reaches of the country as well. And then we’ve got people who are born overseas or who have family overseas. So you’ll see Sri Lankan, Indian, South American, and Thai [contestants].

I’ve been lucky enough to travel to some of these countries, but they’re still plating up their version of dishes or regional dishes, where I think: That’s familiar. But it’s different to me. So I still get to learn pretty much every day.