The new Masterchef Australia judges have been announced – and the choices are surprising

''We're excited to welcome this new generation of judges to the MasterChef kitchen.''

Andy Allen, Melissa Leong and Jock Zonfrillo have been announced as the new judges of MasterChef Australia.

Former judges Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston left the show in July this year after more than a decade in their roles.

The news came as quite a shock as makers of the show, Network 10, revealed that after months of negotiations they were unable to reach a “commercial agreement that was satisfactory” to the three judges, and had subsequently parted ways.

Now that the dust has settled from the controversial axing, Network 10’s Chief Content Officer Beverley McGregor says he’s “excited” about the change.

“As you would know, it’s unusual for a show to be on air 11 years with the same talent on a reality show,” he tells TV WEEK.

“George, Gary and Matt were great and we had a great partnership for over a decade, but I think the timing is really good for us to move on and I think the audience is really ready to embrace and discover some new judge or mentors in that regard.

“So I think it’s probably the right time. I probably would have been more nervous two years ago, but I think our timing is pretty good.”

So who are the new judges they’ve chosen for the 2020 season?

Andy Allen, Melissa Leong and Jock Zonfrillo have been announced as the new Masterchef Australia judges for 2020.

Andy won MasterChef Australia’s fourth season in 2012. Since leaving the show, he’s become a One Hat Chef and opened restaurant Three Blue Ducks in Sydney with Mark LaBrooy and Darren Robertson.

Melissa is a food critic who previously appeared on Australian show The Chefs’ Line as a judge. Jock is a Scottish celebrity chef who owns Restaurant Orana in Adelaide.

The choices came as a surprise, as Australian chefs Maggie Beer, Curtis Stone and Masterchef Australia season one runner-up Poh Ling Yeow were considered front runners to take over.

That didn’t, however, eventuate and Carl Fennessy, CEO of production company Endemol Shine, welcomed the new trio to the franchise earlier today.

“We are thrilled to welcome Jock, Melissa and Andy to the MasterChef Australia family. Jock’s culinary resume across Australia and the United Kingdom puts him in the very elite of contemporary chefs.

“Melissa’s diverse palate and incredible food knowledge will test our contestants in every way, and Andy brings with him a wealth of experience as a MasterChef Australia winner who’s become one of Australia’s hottest chefs.

“We’re excited to welcome this new generation of judges to the MasterChef kitchen.”

The ‘old generation’, former judges Gary, Matt and George insist, for their part, that it was never about the money.

As Gary explained in a Facebook post when their departure was announced, “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”.

At the time, news of their departure came just after George had been found guilty of grossly underpaying his restaurant staff.

The Fair Work Ombudsman fined hims 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.

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