MasterChef winner Adam Liaw's 'genius' recipe hacks

In the ten years since taking out the top spot in MasterChef Australia season two, Adam Liaw has released five cookbooks, starred in his own TV series and brought Asian home cooking to the fore. But it’s his genius — and often off-the-wall — recipe hacks that have his near-200k Instagram followers in a tizzy.

Take his spaghetti bolognese trick for example. In a Zoom cooking class in April, Adam revealed how he incorporates none other than everyone’s pantry staple Vegemite in the much-loved dish.

MasterChef season two winner Adam Liaw wears a blue shirt and poses in front of a glass door
MasterChef season two winner Adam Liaw's recipe tips and tricks are blowing home cooks' minds. Photo: Instagram/adamliaw.

Adam’s Vegemite spag bol

Instead of stirring the salty spread into the sauce, Adam showed home cooks how to make their own Vegemite toast pangrattato — a fancy word for bread crumbs — by blitzing four slices of bread spread with Vegemite in a food processor.

After a quick fry in a pan, the pangrattato is ready to sprinkle over spaghetti bolognese, transforming it into the “Aussiest spag bol ever”.

Despite the odd flavour combo, it was a hit with fans on Instagram.

Adam Liaw's spaghetti bolognese
Adam adds Vegemite to the classic dish. Photo: Instagram/adamliaw.

“People always look at me strangely when I say I put Vegemite in spag bol, now I feel like I’ve been validated,” one person wrote.

“I use vegemite in my lamb or beef gravy,” revealed another.

‘This just changed my life!!” said one.

Adam’s cheesy sausage sandwich hack

Earlier in the year, Adam stunned his followers by tweeting a video of an ingenious and deceptively simple trick to revolutionise a sausage sandwich.

“What if I told you that you could add crisp, golden cheese to a sausage-in-bread just by frying a slice of ordinary tasty cheese directly on a barbecue and putting a slice of bread on top of it?” he wrote.

Adam Liaw holds a cheesy sausage sandwich.
Adam's genius cheesy sausage sandwich trick. Photo: Instagram/adamliaw.

The clip shows the chef place a slice of cheese on a frypan, leaving it to melt for a moment before placing a piece of standard white sandwich bread on top.

After flipping the slice to reveal perfectly melted cheese Adam adds the traditional sausage, onion and tomato sauce for a snag sambo that would make Bunnings jealous.

Adam Liaw cooks cheese and bread in a pan
The snag sambo hack in progress. Photo: Instagram/adamliaw.

Praise for the easy but effective trick rolled in online.

“This is genius!” one person wrote.

“My mind is blown,” another shared.

“You are to lunch what Einstein was to physics,” another boldly claimed.

Who is Adam Liaw?

Adam Liaw is a 41-year-old Malaysian Australian chef, TV star, cookbook author and former lawyer.

Adam was born in Georgetown, Penang to an English-Singaporean mother, Dr Joyce Hill AM, and a Chinese-Malaysian father, Dr Siaw-Lin Liaw.

The family of five — Adam has an older brother and a younger sister — relocated to Adelaide, SA in 1981 when Adam was three years old.

When his parents divorced and his mum moved away, Adam moved in with his grandmother on his dad’s side, Kwei-Eng Chew, who he credits with inspiring his love of food and cooking.

Adam Liaw wins MasterChef Australia in 2010
Adam took out the top spot in MasterChef Australia season two in 2010. Photo: Channel 10

Did Adam Liaw win MasterChef?

Yes, he certainly did. Adam was crowned the winner of MasterChef Australia season two in 2010, beating out Callum Hann 89 to 92 points in the grand finale.

As many as 5.74 million viewers from across the country tuned in to watch Adam claim victory with his immaculate recreation of Quay chef Peter Gilmore’s snow egg dessert and, ten years later, it’s still the most-watched non-sporting TV event in Aussie history.

It was expected to be so popular that then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott were forced to push back the broadcast of their national election debate to later that evening.

Adam snagged a cool $100,000 and a cookbook publishing deal for his efforts. He released his debut book, Two Asian Kitchens, in 2011 followed by Asian After Work (2013), Adam's Big Pot (2014), Asian Cookery School (2015) and, most recently, The Zen Kitchen (2016).

In 2012, Adam’s travel cooking TV series, Destination Flavour, premiered on SBS, spawning several spin-offs over the years including Destination Flavour: Japan (2013), Destination Flavour: Down Under (2014) and Destination Flavour: Scandinavia (2016).

Chef Adam Liaw poses in the media room after winning the AACTA Award for Best Lifestyle Television Program for Destination Flavour at the 6th AACTA Awards Presented by Foxtel at The Star on December 7, 2016 in Sydney, Australia.
In 2016, Adam won the AACTA Award for Best Lifestyle Television Program for Destination Flavour. Photo: Getty Images.

Has he always been a chef?

Before taking a leap of faith to pursue his food dreams, Adam Liaw was involved in a very different career. At the age of 21, he’d already completed a double degree in Science (Pharmacology) and Law from the University of Adelaide after whizzing through high school and enrolling in uni at just 16-years-old.

Adam began his legal career as a corporate lawyer at a firm in Adelaide before relocating to Japan in 2004 to work in media law for The Walt Disney Company. It was there that he met his future wife, Asami Fujitsuka.

In late 2009, Adam revealed on Twitter that he was “considering flying to Sydney to audition” for the second season of MasterChef Australia which he would go on to win.

Adam Liaw and his wife Asami Fujitsuka wear traditional Japanese dress on their wedding day in 2012.
The happy couple on their wedding day in 2012. Photo: Instagram/adamliaw.

Is Adam Liaw married?

Asami and Adam tied the knot in 2012 and share three gorgeous children: Christopher, 5, Anna, 3, and baby Benji who arrived in August 2019. The family of five live in Sydney.

Adam opened up about the impact becoming a father has had on him in an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald in 2018.

“These kids make me a better person and I'm very grateful to them for that,” he said.

Adam Liaw, his wife Asami Fujitsuka and their three children: Anne, Christopher and Benji.
Adam, his wife Asami and their three kids. Photo: Instagram/adamliaw.

Is Adam Liaw on MasterChef: Back To Win?

While Adam isn’t part in the 2020 season of the show, MasterChef: Back To Win, which sees stars from previous eleven seasons battle it out, he is still highly involved via his Twitter account.

Adam regularly live-tweets episodes, sharing support for his fellow MasterChef alumni — and a cheeky dig here and there.

He even stepped in to defend Back To Win contestant Callum when he was referred to as the season two runner up on screen — despite winning a later season in his own right.

“Captioning Callum with ‘2nd in Season 2’ is a real slap in the face to his #MasterChefAU All-Stars win in 2012,” he wrote on Twitter.

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