MasterChef Australia has announced a new panel of judges for 2024.
The next season of the beloved cooking show will not only welcome three new judges to the panel but also see Melissa Leong leave the series. Leong’s departure comes just five months after the death of fellow Masterchef judge Jock Zonfrillo. Andy Allen, who joined the show with Leong and Zonfrillo in 2020 will continue as a judge on the show.
So, who are the show’s new judges? Let’s introduce you to them below.
Who Are Masterchef Australia’s New Judges?
After much speculation that British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver could be next in line to replace Jock Zonfrillo, he has now been confirmed for a stint as a guest judge in the upcoming season.
While not an official fixture on the judging roster, he’ll join the cast for two weeks, which is the longest a guest judge has appeared on the show in it’s history.
Speaking about the role, Jamie Oliver said: “Returning to the MasterChef kitchen and spending time in Australia makes me very happy. I think MasterChef Australia is the best food show in the world – amazing production values and an incredible story of transformation.
“I love seeing how the contestants constantly surprise themselves about what they can achieve. More than that, MasterChef connects Aussies to food and the joy of cooking and that can only be a positive thing.”
Poh Ling Yeow
Poh Ling Yeow is joining the sixteenth season of Masterchef Australia as a judge. Yeow not only competed on the first season of Masterchef Australia, finishing as runner-up to Julie Goodwin but has also published three cookbooks and starred in her own TV series, Poh’s Kitchen and Poh & Co.
“Talk about a thrilling, full circle moment. MasterChef Australia is where my food story began, so this feels like coming home. 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,” Yeow said in a statement.
Celebrity French chef Jean-Christophe Novelli is also joining the series. Novelli isn’t only a 5/5 AA Rosette awarded and multi–Michelin Star winner but owner of one of the world’s top cookery schools.
In a statement, Novelli said, “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.”
Food critic and journalist Sofia Levin is the third judge to join the show. Levin has not only written about food for publications including Delicious, Good Food and National Geographic but the founder of Seasoned Traveller website and regular guest star on food programs including SBS’ The Cook Up.
In her statement, Levin says, “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.”
Why Did Melissa Leong Leave Masterchef Australia?
While early media reports suggested there may have been tension behind the scenes of the show, a Network 10 spokesperson has explained that the real reason is due to a clash with Melissa’s other show, Dessert Masters.
“There is no investigation that has played any part in the deciding of our judging lineup,” the 10 spokesperson 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.”