I want your job: Interview with Adam Liaw, Lawyer turned MasterChef
It’s hard to describe Adam Liaw in a few words. So I’ll try by excessive hyphenation.
Everybody remembers the over-achieving, ridiculously-good looking, all-rounder, easily-liked kid in school. That’s Adam Liaw, the winner of MasterChef 2010 Season 2, except I’d also describe him as “The Samurai-Chef”. And an ex-lawyer.
Before entering MasterChef Season 2, Adam began in general commercial practice and moved into intellectual property and media. He worked as an in-house lawyer at the Walt Disney Company’s Tokyo office for seven years. One of his first projects was in China managing Disney’s acquisition of a domestic Chinese media company. This project proved to be a challenging deal to navigate due to the regulation in the media and communications space in China. Adam describes the project as “being the first domestic Chinese acquisition in Disney’s history. It was a really big deal for the company at the time.” During his time at Disney, Adam also worked across 13 different countries in Asia.
When asked about the similarities between lawyers and chefs, Adam says that both “can sometimes have big egos. I’m not even joking. You have to keep that in mind in either field to stop yourself from becoming like that.”
Based on the number of lawyer-contestants we’ve seen on MasterChef, it seems that food is one passion lawyers love to indulge in and it becomes a great creative outlet. Adam decided to combine his passion for photography and writing by food blogging. While he was a lawyer, he also had plans to invest in a restaurant. But his food adventures unexpectedly extended to MasterChef, a cookbook deal, and now hosting his own travel and food TV show Destination Flavour on SBS.
But it’s not all fun and games being self-employed. Aside from having freedom, Adam describes his new career as being “physically demanding being in a kitchen or working in TV than it is being behind a desk, and when I’m away filming my show for SBS that’s the hardest. It’s a lot of travel and time spent on your feet.”
But there are a few perks too. “As a lawyer I was in the same office every day, and business trips were just a different office. Doing what I do now I might be in cooking on the African plains one week and then off to a gala TV function in Shanghai the next. I really love that variety.” In other words, he has the most awesome job in the world.
Would he ever consider leaving travel-eating, travel-cooking and travel-writing to go back to practising as a lawyer? “Absolutely. I sometimes get emails from old contacts with job offers asking if I’m ready to come back to the fold yet. I always say, ‘Not yet, but maybe soon.’”
Adam believes that law students, graduates and baby lawyers should “keep an open mind and think about what it is you really want to do. Once you set yourself up with the right skills, you’ll be ready to take the right opportunities when they come”.
Of course I had to ask him a food question. If you’re throwing a dinner party for networking, or to show off, or just because you want to, Adam sticks by his motto of “try to impress more with the company than the food.”
As for the menu, Adam suggests, “A simple Coq au Vin or a Navarin and a few nice bottles of wine are a perfect dinner party dish. I do always like to finish with a homemade dessert though. I make an apple pie and pop it in the oven while we all eat main course. By the time everyone is finished the whole house starts to smell like pie and it’s the best way to end a meal. Serve it with some homemade ice cream for extra points.”
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