Masterchef Australia has revealed the judges replacing Calombaris and co – including its first female judge

Andy Allen, Melissa Leong and Jock Zonfrillo.
  • Masterchef has announced its three new judges: Jock Zonfrillo, Melissa Leong and Andy Allen.
  • It comes after the original trio of judges – Matt Preston, George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan – left the series after 11 seasons.
  • The new judges will be on Masterchef Austraila’s 12th season, named ‘Masterchef Australia – Back to Win’, with the best contestants from the past 11 seasons returning to compete for the coveted title.

Get your aprons ready, Masterchef Australia has a fresh line up of judges, including its first female judge. Network 10 has revealed the three new judges who will be taking over the long running cooking competition: Jock Zonfrillo, Melissa Leong and Andy Allen.

The announcement comes three months after the long time trio of judges – Matt Preston, George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan – all left the series. At the time, Network 10 CEO Paul Anderson attributed the departures to an inability to “reach a commercial agreement” that all three judges were satisfied with.

Their departures also came a short time after George Calombaris was caught underpaying workers by a whopping $7.8 million.

When the original trio’s departure was announced, there was a lot of speculation over who would take up the mantle.

Suggestions flooded in on Twitter, with names such as Maggie Beer, Kylie Kwong, Luke Nguyen and my own pick Poh Ling Yeow.

But none of them made the cut. Instead, take a look at the new judges:

Jock Zonfrillo

Jock Zonfrillo is owner and chef of three-hatted restaurant Orana and Bistro Blackwood in Adelaide. He’s also had some time on television, hosting shows including Nomad Chef, Restaurant Revolution and Chef Exchange.

On top of that, Zonfrillo has been a guest chef on MasterChef itself across three seasons.

“When I think of MasterChef Australia, I think of discovering new talented cooks with fresh ideas and creativity,” Zonfrillo said in a statement.

“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. I can’t wait to get in that kitchen.”

Melissa Leong

Next up is Melissa Leong, a food and travel writer, radio broadcaster, television presenter, MC and cookbook editor.

Leong, a first generation Singaporean Australian, was also a judge on SBS’s The Chef’s Line.

While Masterchef has had female guest judges on the show before, Leong is the show’s first permanent female judge. One twitter user even applauded the show for bringing a woman of colour on as one of the judges.

On being selected as a judge, Leong said in a statement, “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.”

Andy Allen

Rounding out the judges is Masterchef season four winner Andy Allen. Since winning the competition, Allen has become co-owner of Three Blue Ducks which has venues in Sydney and Brisbane. He is head chef at the Rosebery restaurant which even won a Chef’s Hat, making Allen the first Masterchef Australia contestant to get the honour.

“To be asked to be a judge – and to come full circle back to MasterChef Australia – is really flattering and really special,” Allen said in a statement.

Network 10 Chief Content Officer, Beverley McGarvey, said in a statement that the network is “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.”

Masterchef season 12

The new judges will appear on the 12th season of MasterChef Australia which will air in 2020. The season will be called ‘Masterchef Australia – Back to Win’, with the best contestants from the past 11 seasons returning to claim a title.

Leong said it’s the “who’s who of Masterchef Australia’s favourites from seasons past”.

“This season, they have an opportunity to show everyone what they’ve been up to and where they are at, in their food evolution,” she said in a statement. “They know how this game works, so they should be prepared to waste no time in showing us what they’ve got.”

There’s no word yet on who exactly will be coming back to the Masterchef kitchen.

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