Channel 10 has announced that Chef Jock Zonfrillo of Adelaide's Restaurant Orana (which also temporarily popped up in Sydney); food and travel writer and broadcaster Melissa Leong; and former Masterchef winner Andy Allen are the new hosts of the show's 12th season.
The three replace George Calombaris, Gary Mehigan and Matt Preston, who left the show controversially earlier this year following contractural issues.
The network says the three new hosts will be joined by contestants from all past 11 seasons of Masterchef Australia, who will be back in the kitchen battling it out for the top prize.
Allen was the winner of the fourth season – the youngest contestant to win at the time (last year's winner now takes that honour). During that TV stint he met Darren Robertson and Mark LaBrooy of Sydney's Three Blue Ducks, who then gave him a job. He eventually became a co-owner and then head chef of Three Blue Ducks Rosebery.
This won't be Leong's first foray into TV. She was host of SBS's The Chef’s Line. On her Instagram account she said, "It is with great excitement that I share with you possibly the biggest news of my career, to date. I’m thrilled to confirm the whispers happening out there and say yes! I will indeed be part of the new guard for Masterchef Australia."
Zonfrillo, who is one of Australia's most innovative chefs, also made an announcement on Instagram. "It’s a privilege to be asked, and I can’t wait to get in the kitchen with Melissa and Andy to uncover Australia’s next Masterchef.
The competitive cooking show, which was invented in the UK in 1990, has become one of Australia's most successful TV formats. The former judges were were dumped from the show in July, with Channel 10 saying despite months of negotiation it couldn't reach a commercial agreement that was satisfactory to the three men.
It came on the back of news Calombaris and Made Establishment – of which he is a founding member and current shareholder – admitted to underpaying staff a total of $7.8 million, an update to the $2.6 million already self-reported by the group and back paid to affected staff.
The 2020 season will begin early next year.