The replacements for Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston have been revealed, with next year’s season of Masterchef on Ten to be fronted by Jock Zonfrillo, Melissa Leong and Andy Allen.
The trio of Mehigan, Calombaris and Preston was ditched earlier this year, when contract negotiations with Ten broke down.
There were rumours of the trio demanding astronomical pay rises, and that they were seeking more freedom to pursue other projects. The shake-up also came at a time that Calombaris was facing heat in the media and hospitality industries over underpaying workers.
The new trio will front Masterchef from next year, along with a best-of season: Masterchef Australia – Back to Win. The Back to Win iteration of the show, will feature “the best of the best from the past 11 seasons”, Ten said.
Zonfrillo owns the three-hatted Restaurant Orana and Bistro Blackwood in Adelaide, while Leong is a food and travel writer, radio broadcaster, television presenter and cookbook editor. Allen won Masterchef in 2012.
Network Ten’s chief content officer Beverley McGarvey said she was thrilled to welcome all three personalities to the fold.
“Their combined culinary credentials, coupled with their passion and sheer joy for food, and their relentless enthusiasm to explore ingredients, preparation and cooking methods ensures we are in for a real treat,” she said.
Zonfrillo, who has already hosted Nomad Chef, Restaurant Revolution and Chef Exchange, said he was looking forward to discovering new talented cooks with fresh ideas and creativity.
“There hasn’t been a season yet where I haven’t been surprised by just how talented some of the undiscovered cooks are, so much so, that many of them have worked in my kitchen over the years,” he said. “I can’t wait to get in that kitchen.”
Leong said she was surprised to get the call up.
“It goes without saying, that it is an honour to be passed the baton and asked to help bring the next chapter to life on a show like Masterchef Australia.
“It came as a huge surprise for me, and is, without a doubt, the opportunity of a lifetime. I am really looking forward to getting stuck in.”
In addition to his Masterchef season four win, Allen is the co-owner of the Three Blue Ducks and the head chef at its Rosebery operation. He said his new role sees him come full circle.
“I entered this competition as a contestant in 2012, somehow I won it, and then I went out into the big, bad wide world of hospitality. To be asked to be a judge – and to come full circle back to Masterchef Australia – is really flattering and really special,” he said.
“I’m stoked because it means that I’ve done the hard work to be here. You don’t ask Joe Blow to be a judge on Masterchef Australia.”
The returning contestants for Back to Win are yet to be announced.
This year’s winner announcement screened to 992,000 overnight metro viewers, down from 1.309m the year prior. It had premiered to 715,000 metro viewers.