'MasterChef Australia's Darrsh Clarke Has Faced Something That's All Too Familiar To Children Of South Asian Immigrants

He also speaks to us about the influence of his late father, and how family has helped shape his love for food.

MasterChef Australia 2024 contestant Darrsh Clarke

He’s set to cook in the ultimate reality TV kitchen on MasterChef Australia, but Darrsh Clarke’s earliest kitchen memory – and perhaps one of his favourites – goes back to his childhood when he would spend school holidays at his grandparents’ house. 

“My grandma would always be making me cakes and I had such a sweet tooth [even still to this day],” the now-31-year-old tells Draw Your Box. “I’d be seeing her bake, and she’d let me jump in and cook.” 

The son of Tamil immigrants from Sri Lanka says his heritage also played a huge role in him developing a particular passion for food. Whether it was visiting his grandparents on a Sunday, or going to the temple with family when growing up, there were always lots of delicious dishes. 

“I think with a lot of Asian cultures, it's a way to bring everyone together,” he says, adding another inspiration for his own cooking style these days is his late father. 

Clarke’s parents were born and brought up in Sri Lanka and moved to Perth in 1989. His father’s first job in Australia involved cooking at an Indian restaurant, before he went on to become a university professor.

“He was a massive influence,” Clarke reflects. “As I grew older, I grew into who I am. When my dad did pass away, my mum and I had a couple of heart-to-heart conversations. She was like, ‘You are identical to your dad.’” 

Despite his culinary enthusiasm, Clarke has worked in the business sector up until now – with cooking just being a hobby on the side. He initially studied engineering, before moving into a management consultant role in the business space. 

“Food has always been there in the background. I’ll be honest, growing up with a Sri Lankan background, the options were engineer, doctor, accountant or lawyer,” he laughs. 

What Clarke speaks of rings true for many children of immigrants, particularly in South Asian communities. Our parents have moved to Australia and made immense sacrifices in the process, all with the hope of giving their kids a better future. This consequently means that many second-gen South Asian Australians feel the pressure to pursue what’s traditionally been viewed by our parents’ generation as a high-earning and respectful ‘profession’ that will make them proud.

“When you’re a kid, I guess you go like, ‘Oh, all of my friends want to go off and be artists – why can’t I do that?’ Obviously, coming from the background that my parents had, those [professional] jobs were the ones that would provide a better lifestyle for you and your family,” he explains.

“I can completely understand that and I really appreciated it because that really forced me to prioritise education, which is fantastic.” 

Recalling his parents coming to Australia with a “single suitcase” at a time when there was a lot of “conflict” in Sri Lanka and feelings of “displacement”, Clarke says his mum and dad “just had to build a life here”. 

“I'm so so grateful. Obviously, when you're a kid, you don't realise the sacrifices that they had to go through to give me a life in Australia… which is such a beautiful country with so many opportunities.” 

The cast of MasterChef Australia 2024

The cast of MasterChef Australia 2024. Image Source: Channel 10

Now going into the MasterChef kitchen all these years later, Clarke hopes to make his parents proud through showcasing his culture’s cuisine.

“I’m definitely coming in with savoury and sweet as well as modern Australian and Sri Lankan,” he teases. “And showcasing diversity in all of the dishes that I plan to put up. I think that’s a big strength of mine.” 

Given his creativity in the kitchen and his entrepreneurial mindset, Clarke has his eyes on potentially having his own food-related business in Western Australia. 

“I feel like there’s so much opportunity there – whether it's wine bars, or opening restaurants and owning, that would be really cool,” he says. “I think using the food industry and bars or restaurants as a creative outlet is something that really really excites me.” 

Of course, before we even learn what’s truly next on the horizon for Clarke, we’ll get to watch him in action on MasterChef alongside 21 other home cooks vying for $250,000 in prize money. They are Alex Crisp, David Tan, Gillian Dinh, Harry Butterfield, James Holmes, Jonathan Hooper, Josh Clarke, Josh Perry, Juan De La Cruz Torales Villarreal, Khristian Walker, Lachlan Whittle, Lily Davies, Lourdes Leschen, Mimi Wong, Nat Thaipun, Savindri Perera, Snezana Calic, Steph Griffen, Stephen Dennis, Sue Bazely and Sumeet Saigal.

The judges this year are Andy Allen, Poh Ling Yeow, Sofia Levin and Jean-Christophe Novelli. 

MasterChef Australia 2024 premieres on Monday, April 22 at 7:30pm on Channel 10 and 10 Play.

MasterChef Australia 2024 judges Sofia Levin, Andy Allen, Poh Ling Yeow and Jean-Christophe Novelli

MasterChef Australia 2024 judges Sofia Levin, Andy Allen, Poh Ling Yeow and Jean-Christophe Novelli. Image Source: Channel 10