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Melissa Leong announces surprising new project after leaving MasterChef

"Why would you say no to that?"

Melissa Leong has revealed a new TV project following her shock departure from MasterChef Australia, with the food critic set to front SBS' new documentary series The Hospital: In The Deep End.

The former MasterChef host will appear in the three-part series alongside actor Samuel Johnson and Gardening Australia's Costa Georgiadis.

Jock Zonfrillo, Melissa Leong and Andy Allen
Melissa Leong has announced a new project after the shock news that she would be leaving MasterChef. Photo: Ten

The show will explore the challenges faced by the Australian public health system by going behind the scenes of one of Australia's busiest hospitals. Samuel, Melissa and Costa will work alongside staff as they help deliver frontline care and experience what it's really like working in the public health system.

Speaking about the new project, Melissa shared that she was approached by SBS due to her mother's healthcare experience.

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"She was nursing unit manager in the emergency department in Sutherland Hospital for about a decade, and she’s been a nurse since she was 17," Melissa said, according to news.com.au. "So to be given the opportunity to be a deeply unqualified fly on the wall, to get a feel for how much pressure the public health system is under, why would you say no to that?"

It comes following rumours that she was axed from MasterChef after four years and moved to the new show Dessert Masters due to a feud between the host and others on set.

Speaking with The Herald, Melissa slammed the claims, saying it was always part of her plan to eventually leave, "I always said I would love to be in the position where, when it’s my time, I get to welcome and congratulate the next batch of judges and hand that baton on.

SBS' The Hospital: In The Deep End starring Samuel Johnson, Melissa Leong, and Costa Georgiadis
The former MasterChef host will appear in SBS' new documentary series The Hospital: In The Deep End alongside actor Samuel Johnson and Gardening Australia host Costa Georgiadis. Photo: SBS

"And I get to do that, which is the most wonderful thing, and I get to explore so many other parts of who I am."

She added, "MasterChef made me wake up to the other parts of my life that bring me joy, that turn my brain on … [now] I get the best of both worlds – I get to be able to grow a beloved institution with Dessert Masters, plus I get to do this [The Hospital]."

Following rumours she was axed from the show, Melissa took to Instagram to address the claims, writing, "I get that there is going to be a bit of confusion and chaos about the ‘why’ of it all right now. I’m here and happy to clear that up, because negative tropes draped around women who achieve something is boring, and frankly we are all better than that."

"This is a shift I embrace with joy. One that allows everyone involved, to expand. To put it plainly, I’m very fortunate to continue to be a key part of [MasterChef], yet have the space to evolve my career."

She finished by saying, "In effect, I get to have my cake and eat it too … and what could be better than that?!"

MasterChef 'feud'

Andy Allen will be joined by season one runner-up Poh Ling Yeow, food critic and journalist Sofia Levin, and multi–Michelin Star award-winning chef, Jean-Christophe Novelli for the next season of MasterChef. Photo: Ten
Andy Allen will be joined by season one runner-up Poh Ling Yeow, food critic and journalist Sofia Levin, and multi–Michelin Star award-winning chef, Jean-Christophe Novelli for the next season of MasterChef. Photo: Ten

Rumours began swirling of a feud when the late Jock Zonfrillo's wife Lauren Fried shared a photo of the new MasterChef judging lineup, saying Jock would be "very happy" with the new judges but failed to mention Melissa, leaving some fans wondering if there was something happening behind the scenes.

One line, in particular, had fans scratching their heads, with Lauren writing of the new lineup: "This is a group of people who respect the privilege of being part of such an extraordinary show, they know they’re stronger together than as individuals, and they want to nurture contestants in turning their dream of food as a career into reality."

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Melissa shut down the rumours, telling the Herald Sun that she won't stop being "unapologetically" herself.

"I like to be direct. I like to be heartfelt in everything that I strive to be as real," she said. "We are all humans, humans are complex and you are allowed to have off days. For me it's about being real and that resonates with people.

"That’s why I’m here and I’m not going to shake that determination to continue being unapologetically me."

Speaking about why she chose to keep her grief more private than Andy, who appeared on The Project in the days following Jock's passing in a special tribute, Melissa recently shared that not everyone grieves in the same way.

"We all deal with loss differently, and we need to honour that," she told Stellar magazine. "Some people need to talk in order to process emotions, while other take more time to find the words, if they can at all."

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