Masterchef Australia judges Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris have broken their silence to share their version of events after news broke this week that all three have left the show.
On Tuesday we learned that the "three musketeers", as they call themselves, would not be returning to the show for season 12 after Network Ten failed to come to an agreement with them over, it is said, how much they were being paid.
The trio were reportedly earning salaries of more than $1 million each and had asked for a 40 per cent pay increase, The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald understand.
Of their shock departure, Ten's Chief Executive Officer, Paul Anderson, said in a statement: "Despite months of negotiation, 10 has not been able to reach a commercial agreement that was satisfactory to Matt, Gary and George.
"Across 11 sensational seasons, MasterChef Australia has established itself as one of the most popular and respected cooking television series around the world.
"For more than a decade, the iconic series has shaped and driven the Australian public's passion for food and cooking, delivered iconic television moments, and made the culinary dreams of everyday home cooks come true.
"We would like to thank Gary, George and Matt for their contribution over the past 11 years," he said.
"MasterChef Australia has always been about ordinary Australians doing extraordinary things for the love of food and we believe it is very important to continue that ethos.
"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 trio took to social media to share their side of the story, insisting it was "never about the money".
Gary explains in a Facebook post, "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. 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."
Matt Preston also took to Facebook to say that it was with "a heavy heart" that he was confirming the trio would be leaving the show.
He said they were "really keen to continue" but were "unable to agree to all of the terms for the new contract".
"We have met some beautiful people, discovered and guided some of the brightest up-and-comers in the Australian food scene" and worked with "the best chefs in the world" as well as "the TV industry's finest professionals", he continued.
He said he, Gary and George had formed "a lifelong friendship".
The development couldn't have come at at worse time for George Calombaris, who earlier this month was found guilty of underpaying his staff by almost $8 million.
The Fair Work Ombudsman fined the MasterChef Australia judge and his Made Establishment company $200,000, and ordered him to back-pay current or former employees of his restaurants Press Club, Gazi and Hellenic Republic almost $8 million.
In 2017 it came to light that he was being sued for a mass food poisoning in 2014 at his restaurant Kew.
The restaurant was closed for 24 hours while the Department of Health investigated; 90 diners fell ill with vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach cramps.
Also in 2017 he was charged with assault, after shoving a man who heckled him after news of his underpaying staff first surfaced.
While 10 CEO Paul Anderson has said of the loss of the trio, "We're obviously disappointed that we couldn't come to an agreement" he also pointed out that "the true heroes of the show are the contestants and I don't think we should lose sight of that".
He said, "[The programme] attracts great talent like Curtis Stone and Gordon Ramsay, and I'm sure there's going to be no shortage of people putting their hands up to be part of out new judging panel.
"We've had 11 amazing years of this show, which is far longer than the norm... we're looking forward to another decade.
"There's no doubt that everyone needs to look after their pennies more in this industry and this will inevitably lead to networks making harder decisions. The days of just throwing money at problems are gone. We're being pragmatic and fiscally responsible but by the same token, we have one of the most successful shows of all time in this country and we need to ... build it for the future."
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