MasterChef judges Matt Preston, George Calombaris, Gary Mehigan hint at ‘very special project’

Publish Date
Wednesday, 16 August 2023, 3:21PM
A private Zoom call between the original MasterChef judges has dropped a big hint. Photo / Supplied

A private Zoom call between the original MasterChef judges has dropped a big hint. Photo / Supplied

It seems the original MasterChef Australia judges are cooking up something new.

On Tuesday night, Chef George Calombaris caused a frenzy on social media after he posted a short clip of a Zoom call meeting with his former co-stars Gary Mehigan and Matt Preston.

The video of his laptop screen showed Preston making fun of Calombaris for his “daggy” taste in desserts.

“The daggier the better,” Calombaris laughed. “As daggy as we are on this Zoom call.”

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The social media post was cryptically captioned: “Some serious food talk for a very special project. But majority a lot of shots and giggles.”

The post has since been viewed by 60,000 people, with hundreds pouring into the comments section to guess what could be in the woodwork.

“Omggggggg pls come back to TV!”, said one user while another wrote: “Dying of excitement to see what this project is! My heart is warmed seeing you all together!”

The trio fronted MasterChef Australia for ten years, with their debut season hitting screens in 2009.

Network 10 confirmed in July, 2019 that the original judging panel would not be coming back to the popular cooking show. The announcement was made just a few hours before the finale of season 11.

At the time, chief executive officer Paul Anderson revealed in a statement that the network struggled to reach a commercial agreement “that was satisfactory” with the judges after negotiating the terms for months.

Initial reports alleged that negotiations fell apart because the trio wanted a 40 per cent pay rise, which would see them take home $1.5 million (NZ$1.6 million) each for the 12th season of the show.

MasterChef judges Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris, and Matt Preston. Photo / Supplied

Preston posted on Instagram to say that he and his fellow judges were “really keen to continue but we were unable to agree to all terms for the new contract”.

In 2020, the three chefs were replaced by Andy Allen, Melissa Leong, and the late Jock Zonfrillo, who tragically passed away in May.

Since leaving the show, the three original judges have had a mixed bag when it comes to their post-MasterChef success.

Preston recently was a contestant on Dancing With The Stars, however, he was forced to pull out of the dance competition after sustaining an ankle injury.

Both Preston and Mehigan appeared as hosts on the new Seven show Plate of Origin, however the series didn’t rate with audiences and was not renewed for a second season.

Meanwhile, Calombaris found himself in hot water in 2019 after it was revealed that his company had underpaid its restaurant staff by $7.8 million (NZ$8.42 million). This resulted in MaDE Establishment being fined $200,000 (NZ$216,000) by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Calombaris opened up about the scandal on an episode of the I’ve Got News For You podcast: “We found the issue, we owned up, we paid back.

“A lot of the story that people don’t write about because it’s not cool enough or doesn’t get a headline is that we actually overpaid 49 per cent of our workforce that we never asked the money back for, and I wouldn’t have.

“I think the tough thing for me was, I thought by owning up, it’s the right thing to do, that’s how I grew up,” he added.

“So for me, that was probably the thing that hurt the most, being called a ‘thief’.

“I’m proud of how we acted, I’m proud of what we did to fix the problem.”


This article was first published in the NZ Herald and is republished here with permission.

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