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MasterChef 2024: Melissa Leong quits as surprising new line-up is announced

A very familiar face is joining the judging panel for season 16.

Just over five months after the death of Jock Zonfrillo, Channel 10 has unveiled the new line-up of judges for next year’s season of MasterChef Australia.

The network announced on Monday evening that Melissa Leong, who became a judge in 2020 alongside Jock and season four winner Andy Allen, would be leaving the popular reality show.

Instead, Andy 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 season 16.

MasterChef judges Jean-Christophe Novelli, Andy Allen, Poh Ling Yeow and Sofia Levin with Dessert Master judges Melissa Leong and Amaury Guichon,
Channel 10 has announced the new line-up of MasterChef judges for 2024. Photo: Channel 10

Andy said in a statement: “MasterChef Australia has been part of my life for over a decade. It gave me a pathway into the industry and led me to a career that I'm forever grateful for. After an extremely difficult year in 2023, and upon reflection, the decision to return to the series is not one I took lightly.

“But there is something special in the MasterChef Australia kitchen, and it feels right to come back to work with the amazing production team, and to play my role in seeing the contestants do as I have done. 2024 will be the start of a new chapter, and it will be surreal - yet brilliant - to share this moment with my fellow judges, Poh, Sofia and Jean-Christophe.”

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Poh, who returned to the MasterChef kitchen as a contestant in 2020 for Back to Win and appeared as a guest judge on this year’s season, described the announcement as a “thrilling, full circle moment”.

MasterChef Australia is where my food story began, so this feels like coming home,” she said. “A big part of me will always be standing on the other side with the contestants and I hope when they look to me, they see proof you don’t have to win to win.”

Sofia Levin said: “The first season of MasterChef Australia aired the same year I started writing about food. By the time I graduated from journalism, I was sharing lesser-known food stories, while the show was exposing the nation to cuisines and cultures they had never considered before. Becoming a judge on MasterChef feels like two parallel paths converging, and I am giddy with excitement at the people I get to stand beside.”

Jean-Christophe Novelli added: “Fostering culinary talent is something I have cared about for many years, and it is a passion I am excited to share in the MasterChef kitchen. Australian cuisine has a remarkable reputation on the world stage, and it will be a great privilege to meet and mentor the country’s top home cooks on their journeys to greatness.”

MasterChef’s Poh Ling Yeow.
Season one runner-up Poh Ling Yeow is returning to MasterChef as a judge. Photo: Channel 10

Melissa Leong's next move

While Melissa Leong is stepping away from MasterChef Australia, Channel 10 has confirmed that she will return to host season two of the new spin-off show Dessert Masters in 2024 alongside pastry chef Amaury Guichon - despite the fact that this year’s season is still weeks away from airing.

“Over the past four years, MasterChef Australia has infused my life with something truly magical,” she said in a statement. “It has provided me with life-changing experiences that have given me the courage to continue to put myself outside of my comfort zone.

“It is with great enthusiasm and warmth that I welcome new faces Sofia, Poh, and Jean-Christophe, to this very special family, I know they will make it theirs in their own special way, as we did.

“The great honour of growing the MasterChef Australia family with the introduction of Dessert Masters is not lost on me. I relish the sweet opportunity to nurture this special series alongside Amaury.”

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