Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan announced their shock departures from hit TV show MasterChef just a few months ago and now the pair have confirmed they’re leaving their former teammate George Calombaris and teaming up with one of their past rivals for a new show.
The three judges left MasterChef in July, insisting at the time it wasn’t about the money but felt it was “time to move on”. Calombaris was in hot water at the time after his former staff members claimed he had underpaid staff at his Melbourne restaurant by a whopping $7.8 million.
Now Preston and Mehigan have confirmed they’ll kickstart new show Plate of Origin on Channel 7 with My Kitchen Rules judge Manu Feildel – despite them previously starring on rival programs. The new show was confirmed by Seven in an announcement for their 2020 line-up and is set to launch around the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
It will follow the theme of the sporting competition, with teams going head to head on an international scale to showcase the best cuisines. Channel 7 explained on Instagram: “We’re not just reaching every corner of Australia… We’re going BIGGER! Which cuisine will reign supreme in this worldwide food fight? Let the flames begin.”
Mehigan previously broke his silence the day after his MasterChef exit, 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.”
And 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.”
The trio are contracted until the end of the year and will be replaced by Jock Zonfrillo, Melissa Leong and Andy Allen next year. Channel 10 have revealed they’re “thrilled” with the line-up and confirmed they will have some high profile guests on the show, with Gordon Ramsay, Heston Blumenthal and Curtis Stone set to appear in the 12th series too.
“In a nation obsessed with food, we are thrilled to welcome Jock, Melissa and Andy as judges to MasterChef Australia,” Network 10 Chief Content Officer Beverley McGarvey said. “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.”
Allen is best known for winning MasterChef season four, before going on to host a number of TV series. He now co-owns the Three Blue Ducks restaurants. Meanwhile Zonfrillo is the owner of Orana and Bistro Blackwood in Adelaide, having built up extensive experience in the food industry. He was also named Australia’s hottest chef in 2018.
And Leong has experience in the public eye as a journalist, TV presenter and cookbook editor. She said of the news: “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!”