The 2019 MasterChef finale has so far been a sad one and it has nothing to do with which talented home cook who will take home the top prize.
Tuesday’s episode marks the last time fans of the franchise will see Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris united under the MasterChef banner following Network Ten’s shock announcement that they will not be returning in 2020.
Instead, three new faces will be at the helm next season after the network failed to reach an agreement with the judges.
It’s understood the trio were seeking a pay rise (of up to 40 percent according to Fairfax) and that the decision is separate from the underpayment scandal that’s recently engulfed George.
Although the finale was recorded ahead of judges’ mass exodus, devastated fans took to social media to mourn the loss of their favourite TV chefs.
The trio have been a mainstay for the phenomenon since its Australian inception in 2009, and fans now have just one episode to say farewell.
“We will miss the dynamic and the most humble trio so much!” one longtime viewer commented on Matt’s Facebook post acknowledging his departure.
“This so sad,” another responded. “I have loved every series here in the UK. By far the best Masterchef of all the countries.”
Masterchef could take a leaf out of the GreatBritish/Aussie bake-off series. Two experts and two comical characters. Love that show mostly for that reason. Doesn’t take itself too seriously 🤔 #MasterChefAU— Ellyse (@ellyse101) July 23, 2019
Still not entirely computing that this is the last episode of #MasterChefAU with these three guys at the front. Feeling very nostalgic.— Adam Liaw (@adamliaw) July 23, 2019
“You all brought great learning and true mentorship to the show
which is hard to come by.”
Season two winner Adam Liaw soon joined the chorus of MasterChef devotees to reminisce, almost nine years after taking home the crown himself.
“Still not entirely computing that this is the last episode of #MasterChefAU with these three guys at the front,” he wrote on Twitter. “Feeling very nostalgic.”
However, others were quick to understand more than a decade in one onscreen spot is a long time, with one viewer suggesting a very interesting potential switch-up.
“Masterchef could take a leaf out of the GreatBritish/Aussie bake-off series. Two experts and two comical characters,” they wrote on Twitter.
“Love that show mostly for that reason. Doesn’t take itself too seriously.”
Others put forward their picks to fill the trio’s shoes, with familiar faces among fans’ online favourites.
“This is excellent news,” wrote a hopeful viewer. “I vote for Poh Ling Yeow, Kylie Kwong and Maggie Beer.”
Breaking their silence
But despite rumours of their replacements already swirling, the judges soon broke their temporary silence in respective posts explaining their departures.
Gary was the first to address the shock departure, taking to Instagram on Tuesday evening, noting it was now ‘time to move on’.
“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 and season 12,” he told followers.
“Something we felt very strongly about.”
George echoed these sentiments, and thanked the show’s strong fan base for their years of support.
“You have warmed our hearts, filled our stomachs and sizzled our souls,” he wrote to Instagram followers.
“[And] Channel Ten, thank you for providing us the platform to change the landscape of food worldwide.”
In his farewell, Matt paid tribute to the program’s dozens of contestants, many of whom have launched successful cooking careers since appearing on the show.
“We have met some beautiful people, discovered and guided some of the brightest up-and-comers in the Australian food scene, worked with the best chefs in the world in front of the camera, and with the TV industry’s finest professionals behind the scenes,” he wrote.
“I don’t want to take any gloss off tonight’s well deserved winner so I will not be making any further comment.”
Next gen judges
The response comes hours after news broke of the judges’ departure just hours ahead of the finale, with Ten’s chief executive officer Paul Anderson, saying, “Despite months of negotiation, 10 has not been able to reach a commercial agreement that was satisfactory to Matt, Gary and George.”
“We would like to thank Gary, George and Matt for their contribution over the past 11 years.
“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 decision came after mounting pressure for MasterChef to drop George after he was fined $200,000 after underpaying hundreds of his workers $7.83 million.
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