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'I don't recognise them': Fans react to Masterchef judges

 

CHANNEL 10 has finally revealed who the new MasterChef judges are and it's likely you've never heard of them.

The network announced today that Jock Zonfrillo, Melissa Leong and Andy Allen will replace George Calombaris, Gary Mehigan and Matt Preston for the show's 12th season which will air next year.

If you're wondering who the new judges are, trust us, you're probably not alone.

There was speculation that household names including Maggie Beer, Curtis Stone or Poh Ling Yeow might be cast as the new judges, but instead Channel 10 has chosen a trio of relative unknowns.

Andy Allen, Melissa Leong and Jock Zonfrillo are the new MasterChef judges.
Andy Allen, Melissa Leong and Jock Zonfrillo are the new MasterChef judges.

Zonfrillo was named Australia's Hottest Chef in 2018 and has hosted television shows including Nomad Chef, Restaurant Revolution and Chef Exchange.

Leong is an accomplished food and travel writer, food media consultant, radio broadcaster, television presenter, MC and cookbook editor. And even she seemed shocked to have landed the MasterChef gig.

"It came as a huge surprise for me, and is, without a doubt the opportunity of a lifetime," she said in a statement. "I am really looking forward to getting stuck in."

MasterChef fans will perhaps remember Andy Allen who won season four of the cooking show.

Reaction to the new judges has been mixed.

"I didn't know who George, Matt and Gary were when MC (MasterChef) started so happy to give the new crew a go," wrote Ariana Simon on news.com.au's Facebook page.

Cheryl Lee wrote on Facebook: "At the risk of sounding like an owl, who, who and who?" And Liz MacDonald commented: "Masterchef Australia was George, Matt and Gary. Sorry, I'm done as a viewer."

Another MasterChef fan tweeted: "Been watching #MasterchefAU from the very beginning. I don't recognize THESE guys as even 'guest' from any of the shows, and if they were there, they are NOT the most notable. Are you guys trying to TANK this series?!!"

The upcoming season will see the best contestants from the past 11 seasons return to the kitchen to compete in MasterChef Australia: Back To Win which will be filmed in Melbourne early next year.

It's not yet known which former contestants will be making a comeback on the upcoming season but MasterChef viewers would no doubt love to see fan faves Julie Goodwin, Michael Weldon and Kate Bracks make an appearance.

It would also be great to see people like Justine Schofield, Poh Ling Yeow and Hayden Quinn who have all gone on to become established TV hosts since starring on MasterChef, but perhaps they have outgrown the franchise.

The new judges will be joined throughout the season by celebrity chefs Gordon Ramsay, Heston Blumenthal and Curtis Stone.

Network 10 chief content officer Beverley McGarvey said: "In a nation obsessed with food, we are thrilled to welcome Jock, Melissa and Andy as judges to MasterChef Australia.

"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."

 

 

ORIGINAL TRIO BOOTED

The announcement of the new judging line-up comes after Network 10's shock announcement in July that George Calombaris, Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan wouldn't return to the cooking show in 2020.

"Despite months of negotiation, 10 has not been able to reach a commercial agreement that was satisfactory to Matt, Gary and George," Network 10 chief executive officer Paul Anderson said in a press release sent out just hours before the season 11 finale aired.

"Australia is full of remarkable cooking talent and we can't wait to introduce another group - and the next generation of exceptional judges - in season 12 of MasterChef Australia next year."

The announcement caught everyone off guard, including Matt Preston, who was about to head into Triple M to do a radio interview to promote this year's MasterChef finale when he read on social media that Ten had given him and the other judges the flick.

"It would probably have felt worse if I was by myself, but the fact I was with one of the publicists with Ten who had no idea and who was just aghast by the situation, especially about to go and do a national radio show, it was a bit of a shock," he later said on ABC radio.

 

Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris started on MasterChef in 2009.
Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris started on MasterChef in 2009.

 

It was reported that Calombaris (who it was fined $200,000 for underpaying staff from his restaurant empire more than $7.8 million in wages), Preston and Mehigan demanded a 40 per cent increase on their $1 million per season salaries. But Mehigan took to social media just after the press release was sent out and claimed, "It was never about the money".

"We couldn't agree on the term of the new contract (which) we felt very strongly about … it was time to move on (and) have more free time to explore our own creativity … working together will continue to be the most important thing for us," he wrote.

Preston backed up Mehigan's statement and claimed that the judges had agreed on a dollar amount with Ten.

"We'd agree on the offer with Ten," he said on ABC radio. "We'd sent a note back to their offer, we'd agreed to the financial terms. We'd agreed to make the next series of MasterChef, and it was the other terms that fell down."

It was also reported that the three judges, who had appeared on MasterChef Australia since its debut season in 2009, formed a company called GaryGeorge&Matt (GGM) earlier this year and have been in talks with streaming services and rival TV networks about creating a new series together.

But Preston was adamant that it will be a while before the trio are seen on TV together again.

"I think that the next step for us is to drop out of sight for a nice, long time," he said on ABC radio.

 

Gary Mehigan, Matt Preston and George Colombaris have a big following overseas in countries including India. Picture Lachie Millard
Gary Mehigan, Matt Preston and George Colombaris have a big following overseas in countries including India. Picture Lachie Millard

 

CAN MASTERCHEF SURVIVE?

The question remains as to whether Aussie audiences will embrace the new judging line-up when season 12 kicks off in 2020.

TV Tonight editor David Knox told news.com.au that a refresh after so long could be beneficial for MasterChef in the long run.

"To have had the same judges for 11 seasons is pretty extraordinary anyway so a refresh was inevitable at some point," Knox told news.com.au.

"Some shows never recover from a cast change and others never look back."


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