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MasterChef 2024: Real reason behind Melissa Leong's departure revealed

"Melissa Leong remains a key member of the MasterChef Australia family."

After Ten's shock announcement that Melissa Leong will not be returning to MasterChef next year, the reason behind her departure has been revealed.

The news comes five months after the death of Jock Zonfrillo, who passed away the same day season 15 was set to premiere.

MasterChef judges Jock Zonfrillo, Melissa Leong and Andy Allen
The reason behind Melissa Leong's shock departure from MasterChef has been revealed following Ten's shock announcement. Photo: Ten

Andy Allen, who joined as a judge with Mel and Jock in 2020, will remain part of the MasterChef judging panel, and 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.

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

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And while the Daily Telegraph has hinted that there was tension behind the scenes and that Melissa had "fallen out" with members of the crew, a Network 10 spokesperson has revealed the change in the judging panel was due to a clash with Dessert Masters, which Leong will be working on.

"There is no investigation that has played any part in the deciding of our judging lineup," they told the Australian Financial Review.

"Melissa Leong remains a key member of the MasterChef Australia family. Melissa is set to return for a second season of Dessert Masters in 2024, alongside fellow judge and pastry prodigy Amaury Guichon.

"Next year, MasterChef Australia and Dessert Masters will air back-to-back, therefore each show needs its own distinct style and personality and its own unique hosting team."

Fans react to Melissa's departure: 'Absolute travesty'

Melissa Leong
The announcement left fans shocked, with one labelling it an absolute travesty. Photo: Getty

Melissa took to Instagram to share the news to her followers, writing, "My time as co-host and judge on @MasterChefAU has been a great gift. To have been given the opportunity to learn and grow - and now to be given the vote of confidence to expand and evolve the MasterChef universe is huge!

"Stepping away from the main show and into #DessertMastersAU alongside the extraordinary @AmauryGuichon, is yet another sweet present indeed. It is with great warmth and enthusiasm that I wish this new lineup of judges and hosts all the best in making it theirs, and big love to @andyallencooks for leading the way."

She continued, "The changing of the guard is one I always planned to embrace, and I'm so glad to do that, on my terms, today. On top of all that joy, I am excited to share with you (soon), some other projects I’ve been working on behind the scenes, so watch this space!

"My gratitude to our audience for all your support, can't wait for you to see the new show."

Many MasterChef contestants, friends and fans of Melissa shared their reactions to the announcement, with Minoli De Silva writing, "Mel! I feel so damn lucky to have met you when I did. There have been a few things you've said that have stayed with me over the years, and have shaped the way I operate in this crazy food world, so thank you, and I can't wait to see you kick ass in Dessert Masters and more!"

"How lucky were we to have you as a judge on S13 - good luck with all the new adventures and projects Mel," Dan Dumbrell added.

"How lucky was I to get the last season with you, you are amazing can’t wait to see what’s next," Rhiannon Anderson said.

"You elevate everything you touch Melissa," Narelda Jacobs wrote.

"Oh what bittersweet news Mel. You will be missed from Masterchef but can’t wait to hear what awaits you in the next chapter. I am sure it will be incredible," one user wrote.

"Ah wonderful Mel. Can’t wait to follow and cheer along," another added.

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On Reddit, fans were shocked by the news, with one user writing, "Wow this is shocking. I didn't see this coming. Its crazy how quickly things can change within the space of a year."

"Probably should’ve kept Melissa on and gave Poh the dessert show instead," another said.

"In my opinion Poh is a great replacement for Melissa," a third added. "I think she brings that contestant perspective Andy never seems to bring. I know some people might think she'll derail it and turn it into the Poh show, but I don't think that's the case. I'll be interested to see how she'll judge!"

"Mel is by far and away the best host they’ve ever had, it would be an absolute travesty to not have her return," a fourth said.

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