‘Never about the money’: MasterChef judges Gary, Matt and George break silence

Matt Preston, George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan have revealed why they really quit MasterChef. Source: Getty

They’ve been the face of MasterChef Australia for 11 seasons and after Channel 10 confirmed George Calombaris, Gary Mehigan and Matt Preston would not be returning as judges to the cooking show in 2020, the stars have broken their silence.

On Tuesday, the Channel 10 program confirmed that the three had quit the cooking show and that new judges would take over from next year. Meanwhile, Channel 10’s chief executive officer Paul Anderson said the three would be parting ways after failing to reach a contractual decision.

“Despite months of negotiation, 10 has not been able to reach a commercial agreement that was satisfactory to Matt, Gary and George,” Anderson explained.

Following the show’s season 11 finale on Tuesday evening, Calombaris, Mehigan and Preston all took to social media to explain why they really left the show. Mehigan thanked the fans, contestants and people who work on the show, but denied he was leaving because of money.

“It was time to move on, have more free time to explore our own creativity,” he said on Instagram. “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”.

Preston also took to Instagram to confirm he wasn’t returning, but said it wasn’t because he didn’t want to still be part of the show.

“Thank you so very much for supporting @masterchefau over the last 11 years. We have loved every single moment. It is however with a heavy heart that I can confirm that season 11 was our last,” he wrote. “We were really keen to continue but we were unable to agree to all terms for the new contract.”

He thanked Channel 10 for letting him be part of the show and spoke about mentoring some of the “brightest up-and-comers” in the Australian food scene. He also praised his co-stars.

“And of course, we three judges have formed a lifelong friendship that will live on far beyond the show,” the 57-year-old added. “I look forward to sharing many more adventures with you in the future. And finally I wish the new judges all the best with the show that we love so much.”

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 Tuesday, while more than 26,400 signed a petition for the chef to be canned from the show.

The 40-year-old didn’t say he was fired and claimed he was actually 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.

The trio appeared in their last episode of MasterChef on Tuesday evening, which crowned 22-year-old Larissa Takchi as the winner. The episode had been pre-recorded.

Do you watch MasterChef? Will you be sad to see the judges go? Who do you think will replace them?

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