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Poh lends a hand in the kitchen
Poh with Aaron and Ben at Streat cafe. Picture: Alexandre Schoelcher

As much as cooking identity Poh Ling Yeow is grateful for MasterChef propelling her into the culinary world, she's also aware of the trappings associated with high-end television shows.

It's why she has stripped back her latest series of Poh's Kitchen so it better reflects the wider community and the struggles they face in placing a decent meal on the table.

In the first of the third, and emotionally touching, series of Poh's Kitchen Lends A Hand, which screens on ABC 1 tonight, Yeow visits Streat, a Melbourne community-based program for homeless youth.

There she helps a couple of aspiring, and in many ways inspiring, chefs to create meals, helping these youths find dignity in their life.

"There's too much high-end food and celebrity cheffing going on," Yeow tells AAP.

"As much as I have come from that kind of culture with MasterChef, I just really wanted to take it back a step because I think people are starting to forget what food means to most people in the world.

"It's about taking food back to being an essential element of life and what it means to all these marginalised people in the communities."

In this series Yeow shows the youth, as well as the viewers, how to serve up a healthy and hearty meal for 10 people on just $20.

In the second episode Yeow and a group of cooks with intellectual disabilities set out to plan, cook and serve a wedding banquet.

Yeow says she loves the simplicity of this new series, but she's also grateful to the spin-offs afforded as a contestant of MasterChef.

"I never expected it (my cooking) to explode in such a spectacular way," Yeow says.

"I thought I would just go back to being a painter and starting a cottage industry.

"Post-MasterChef has been amazing given the amount of people that have been able to have spin-off careers."

Before finishing second to Julie Goodwin on the first season of MasterChef in 2009, Yeow had firmly established herself as a painter and it's a craft she prizes as much as her cooking career.

She still holds exhibitions and her next show is at the Arthouse Gallery in Sydney in November.

"I still have an exhibition every year," Yeow says.

"It took me so long to establish that (my art career) I wouldn't give it up very reluctantly.

"I'll never give up the luxury of just having complete autonomy over what I do.

"Certainly when I am painting I think about recipes and when I'm cooking I think about painting."