Why are Gary Mehigan and Matt Preston no longer on MasterChef?
In July last year, Aussie TV fans were shocked when Network Ten unexpectedly announced all three of MasterChef’s judges, Matt, Gary and George, wouldn’t be returning to the show. They had been at the helm since 2009.
"Despite months of negotiation, 10 has not been able to reach a commercial agreement that was satisfactory to Matt, Gary and George,” Network Ten chief executive officer Paul Anderson said in a statement.
"Across 11 sensational seasons, MasterChef Australia has established itself as one of the most popular and respected cooking television series around the world. For more than a decade, the iconic series has shaped and driven the Australian public's passion for food and cooking, delivered iconic television moments, and made the culinary dreams of everyday home cooks come true.
"We would like to thank Gary, George and Matt for their contribution over the past 11 years."
The judges were later replaced with Melissa Leong, Andy Allen and Jock Zonfrillo.
What did George Calombaris do?
While Gary and Matt were still marketable personalities, a spate of scandals surrounding George garnered considerable backlash.
The TV personality came under fire in 2017 for underpaying his restaurant staff. His company Made Establishment promised in September that year to fork out $2.6million in unpaid wages to his staff.
The same year, George hit the headlines again when he assaulted a 19-year-old man at an A-League Grand Final in May 2017 and footage was made public of George screaming at the soccer fan and punching him in the abdomen. The chef later pleaded guilty and was fined $1000 but the conviction was later overturned on appeal.
In 2018, George faced off against his 71-year-old neighbour in the exclusive Melbourne suburb of Toorak after she complained that his gym in the backyard of his mansion was an eyesore obstructing her views.
“There is no question about it, it was a turbulent time, let’s not kid ourselves, I flew very close to the sun,” George later told The Daily Telegraph in 2018 about his troubles.
“I might be really little but I have a heart of a lion and I don’t want to be a flock of sheep. I want to do things my way and sometimes you are going to make mistakes.”
George’s fall from grace continued however, and the 22 companies that made up his Made Establishment Group – including Press Club, Gazi and Hellenic Republic – collapsed, going into voluntary administration in February, 2020.
Revealing his devastation on Instagram at the time, George wrote in an open letter to his staff: “I am so sorry all our collective efforts have not provided to be enough. I'm gutted it's come to this.”
Why isn’t George Calombaris part of Plate Of Origin?
George’s ongoing negative publicity may be part of the reason why he didn't sign up for Plate of Origin. And, last month, Gary weighed in on what it was like to film the new show without his former sidekick.
“[George] had a disastrous year last year,” admitted Gary to New Idea. “It’s been a terrible time for him. And as close friends, Matt and I were concerned for his health as much as anything else.
“And however long it takes for George to get back on his feet and find his path forward, we’re there to support him. And we will.”