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Ping Coombes at work

Ping Coombes is one of the many incredibly hardworking women whose career and homelife balance, and sheer ambition, made me think of creating an ‘inspiring women’ series of interviews on FashCatherine. Chef and now author of her own cookery book, ‘Malaysia: Recipes from a family kitchen‘, Ping became a household name after winning Masterchef in 2014 with her culinary wizardry. Growing up and learning the virtues of ‘good food’ in Malaysia, Ping took her creative talent and passion, and applied it in the face of adversity; something we can all take inspiration from. Here, she talks about how she became a household name, top tips for starting out, and taking inspiration from her travels – and, Dame Judi Dench.

“…being a woman is quite powerful…. we need to believe in ourselves more.” Ping Coombes

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A chicken satay and peanut sauce from Ping’s cookbook

How would you describe your job, and how much of your time does it take up?

My job is so varied, as I am self employed. I don’t usually have set hours at work and can be working all the time – even on holiday. After being made redundant, I entered MasterChef and won. I was really lucky to turn my hobby into a career.

What was your biggest setback and how did you overcome it?

I was in discussion to host my own cookery programme and it fell through at the last minute. I was really upset but I believe in fate. If it is not meant to be, it is not meant to be. I get up and try again. I get setbacks from time to time. Apart from turning to family and friends for moral support, I also approach industry peers to get advise and motivation.
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@rivercottagehq with my students for hands on cookery course.”

Did you ever feel held back in the workplace, because you are a woman?

No, never. I think being a woman is quite powerful. Women have so many qualities, and we need to believe in ourselves more.

How have you gained confidence within your working role?

I am never 100% confident in whatever I do but I think it is a good thing because it keeps me on my toes to always strive for the best.
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Ping’s cookery book displayed beautifully by a book store!
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Ping, cooking with her daughter, Alexa, and a friend 

Work aside, how do you prioritise your social time? Who gets the most of your attention?

I love spending time with my family and friends. So when I have time, I cook and invite my friends around. Alexa my daughter gets most of my attention, especially as she is super cheeky and very affectionate.

How do you relax?

 I cook and I binge watch Korean dramas. Not together though…
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What would you say to women who are interested in starting a career in your industry?

It is not an easy industry but if they want to, they should go and try. I always remember this quote from Judi Dench from Marigold Hotel: “The real failure is the failure to try.”

How do find your own inspiration – for work, and for play?

I love to travel, and I am quite nosy on other people’s travels and experiences. So I listen, and I observe. I keep notes in my phone, and if something comes to me, I write it down however crazy so I don’t forget it.
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Did you know…? Ping has created a family-friendly menu for travel brand Scott Dunn, which is cooked up by their in-villa, in-chalet and Explorers kids’ clubs chefs

What are your three top tips for starting your own business?

Do some research, trial it with lowest cost possible and go at it with 100%.

How ambitious are you? Are you still striving for more success? How?

Very, and yes, I am always striving. I am always on the look out for opportunities.
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What is your favourite/best social media tool?

Instagram. Pictures can tell it better than words.

Read the other interviews in our ‘women inspiring women series

  • Caroline Watson, stylist and bag designer, here
  • Kids’ fashion designer Jessica Seaman, here
  • Lifestyle PR guru Shosh Kazab, here
  • Fashion and beauty blogger Danie Vanier, here
  • Nutrition expert + lots more Yvonne Wake, here
  • Writer and social media expert, Susie Verrill, here
  • WGSN kids’ fashion editor, Clare Weston, here 

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