Conversations about cooking… Alvin Quah chats with Have a Go News

Alvin Quah deep in focus cooking on masterchef
Alvin Quah loves to cook

I first met Alvin Quah in 2011 when he was a guest chef at the Good Food and Wine Show.

Alvin hails from Malaysia and as a long time lover of all things Malaysian we had a lot to talk about. 

For his cooking demonstration he was madly trying to find Vietnamese mint for the dish he was preparing. I called a few local chefs trying to source some, unfortunately to no avail.

Fast forward to 2022 and I was thrilled to see Alvin return to the screen on this year’s MasterChef

Following the MasterChef Grand Final, I caught up with him via Zoom from his home in Sydney.

I asked him what made him return to the show.

“It was a mixture of things – I think they caught me in a weak moment (laughing). 

“Competing on the show is very different now, it’s not so isolating and you can contact your loved ones and have access to your phone. 

“I thought it’s been a long time since I have been in the competitive arena and there’s so many new trends with food I want to experiment with,” he said.

Throughout the show Alvin cooked many Malaysian dishes, sharing recipes from his beloved mum’s kitchen. 

Alvin says the beauty of food is that everything comes with a story and his style reflects the love of cooking he discovered in his childhood kitchen with his mother.

Recognised as a master of balance with his recipes, he believes that this skill was innate in his mum’s cooking.

“I never had to learn it; I just knew – I think they need to put a terminology to it – it’s quite a handicap if you don’t have that skill – tasting your food is such an important part of cooking and particularly for home cooking. 

“If you taste your food through the cooking process you just know when something is out of whack.

“I am such a home cook – so on weekends I will labour more and cook more extensive stuff like desserts, a mud cake or a three-day trifle. 

“One of my favourite things to cook is a Nonya curry – it smells like mum’s kitchen.”

Alvin says there are so many wonderful recipes in Malaysian cuisine and he is keen to raise public awareness of Malaysian food to make it as well-known as Chinese or Thai food.

“There are so many beautiful recipes in Malaysian culture – it is very interesting that many people know Malaysian food, but for those who don’t – and there is a significant number who don’t – I like to share the many influences that make Malaysian food a melting pot of cultures. 

“There’s influences from Thailand, Indonesia and China.”

Alvin’s heritage is Peranakan. They were Chinese immigrants who settled in Malaysia up until the 19th century marrying Malays and practicing the local way of life.

They created a cross-cultural feast of food coined Nonya cuisine, which is one of the biggest food genres in Malaysia.

In his first season of MasterChef Alvin cooked a very popular Nonya dish, drunken chicken, which was one of the most downloaded recipes from the show.

Alvin said he has not cooked the dish since the first series. This year, although he was filled with mixed emotions and self-doubt about cooking it again, he decided to bring it back.

“It was drunken chicken 2.0 – I had to change it and modernise it a little – I had to amp it up – I am glad that people loved it.

“People make it and contact me on social media and share their photos of some of my recipes.”

This year Alvin finished sixth, the same place he came in his first series. He went out on a favourite recipe (oyster omelette) when cooking outside and his wok wouldn’t get hot enough.

He simply said, “well who can compete with mother nature.” 

Some people love shoes, bags or tools; Alvin confesses he loves eye wear. In the series he sported a different pair of prescription glasses almost each episode.

With more than 35 pairs and growing, he says it’s an addiction for him and he is looking at doing a collaboration with a spectacles company. 

He also wants to feature in a food related talk show. He says although there is a plethora of shows out there, he thinks there’s an appetite for more.

“I think food connects people – people learn of another person’s culture through food.

“I also want to write a cookbook – I have put off putting my mum’s recipes to pen and paper – after the show I think the world needs to have some of these recipes – if nothing else it’s an ode to my mother.”

Alvin is a friendly and welcoming person who loves talking and cooking – his fun personality and quick wit is the perfect recipe to share his love of cooking with the world. 

And what does he enjoy most about cooking?

“I just love seeing the joy on people’s faces when they eat my food.”

Find out more at, follow him on social media or Alvin’s recipes from the show can be downloaded from the MasterChef website.