MasterChef Australia lost all three of its famous judges last month after Channel 10 failed to secure a contract for season 11 with George Calombaris, Gary Mehigan and Matt Preston and while reports at the time claimed the three stars left over a pay dispute, Mehigan has revealed the real reason the trio left the hit cooking show.
Speaking exclusively to the Sydney Morning Herald on Sunday, the 52-year-old explained the network didn’t even phone to tell him what had happened, that his axing from MasterChef was “abrupt” and denied it was because of money.
“There’s the ‘three greedy judges’ narrative, then there’s reality,” he told the publication, explaining that along with Calombaris and Preston, he’d previously formed a company that focused on books, podcasts and new TV shows.
The three wanted to continue working on MasterChef but wrap up early in 2020, but Mehigan claimed Channel 10 wanted them to remain contracted until the end of the year.
“We wanted to keep making MasterChef, but we needed space to stretch our legs and do our own thing,” he said, before adding that he was disappointed the trio weren’t able to farewell viewers properly and hand over their judging roles to the yet to be announced new stars.
Mehigan previously broke his silence the day after the shock departure announcement last month, writing on Instagram: “It was time to move on, have more free time to explore our own creativity.
“It was never about the money and never will be about the money. We couldn’t agree on the term of the new contract for 2020 and season 12. Something we felt very strongly about.”
He also thanked his two co-stars and referred to them as “the three musketeers”.
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To all of our fans ‘thank you’ To the team that makes MasterChef ‘thank you’ and to all of the contestants that we know and love, we are all part of a very exclusive club and what a journey what an experience. To explain: ‘It was time to move on, have more free time to explore our own creativity’ It was never about the money and never will be about the money. We couldn’t agree on the term of the new contract for 2020 and season 12. Something we felt very strongly about. The opportunity to work with Matt and George has been a blessing and something I cherish. Working together will continue to be the most important thing for us…..the three musketeers…….🤗 @mattscravat @gcalombaris @masterchefau #masterchefau #foodies #foodiesofinstagram #homecooks #homecooking #masterchef
There had previously been calls for Calombaris – who has been at the centre of controversy for underpaying staff $7.8 million at establishments including Hellenic Republic, The Press Club and Gazi – to be fired from the hit show. The hashtag #MasterTheft was trending on Twitter on the day of the finale last month and more than 26,400 signed a petition for the chef to be canned from the show.
Despite this, the 40-year-old also maintained close to signing a new contract.
“We were close to signing a new contract for season 12 however the dates just didn’t align. Channel Ten, thank you for providing us the platform to change the landscape of food worldwide,” he said on Instagram. “To the next 3 judges and mentors, we wish you loads of success.”
The star – who was ordered to pay a massive $200,000 fine for the underpayment of employees – also thanked MasterChef’s contestants, teams and his two co-stars.
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@masterchefau geez you have warmed our hearts, filled our stomachs and sizzled our souls. To the great contestants of the past 11 years, you ought to be proud. To the incredible @masterchefau team that works so hard to make the best cooking show on earth, we salute you. To our families, friends and teams who have supported us, you freakin’ rock. We were close to signing a new contract for season 12 however the dates just didn’t align. Channel Ten, thank you for providing us the platform to change the landscape of food worldwide. To the next 3 judges and mentors, we wish you loads of success. To my brothers @mattscravat and @garymehigan: I love you and thank you. Time to take a deep breath and be thankful. With love GC 🧿 xxx
MasterChef Australia is set to return in 2020 with three new judges.