Earlier today, with the Season 11 finale just a few hours away, nail-biting MasterChef Australia devotees were smacked with devastating news.
Network 10 revealed that the show’s iconic trio of judges – George Calombaris, Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan – would not be returning for a 12th season.
“After 11 sensational seasons, we bid a fond farewell to our judges… We thank Matt, George and Gary for being a part of this remarkable MasterChef legacy,” commented MasterChef Australia’s official Instagram page.
The phrase ‘fond farewell’ – so deeply reminiscent of the tearful goodbyes of eliminated contestants – was masterfully chosen.
Us fans, having watched our favourites trudge out the MasterChef kitchen after notoriously brutal ‘pressure tests’, and still reeling from the loss of Tim Bone, couldn’t help but feel distraught.
Reasons for the demoralising departure of three judges remain unclear: while the network cited an inability to reach a commercial agreement, others suggest that George was pressured to leave, after last week’s scandal revealed that his companies had underpaid employees by almost $8 million.
These sources allege that, given the ‘Three Musketeers’-esque relationship amongst the trio, their exeunt, too, was enthused with the spirit of “All for one, and one for all.”
Despite these warm sentiments, it does appear as though the timing of the news was calculated and strategic – perhaps the work of a cunning PR team well-versed in how to arouse emotion, stirring it up to a fever-pitch to boost viewership of the finale.
If so, the tactic has been effective. As someone said on Reddit: “Wow, what a seismic shock.’
The chemistry between cultured, sophisticated Matt (and his impeccable outfits, pocket squares et all), peppy yet nurturing Gary and driven, snarky George was a defining element of the show for years, adding a sense of umami that added an extra pop of flavour.
How does one describe them? Given the delectable dishes they have inspired, perhaps it is only fitting that we ponder how to represent their personalities in culinary form.
Matt is the indomitable macaroon tower – elegant, posh… the kind of class and colour you can only find in those who wear pastel suits. But if you look beneath his sugary exterior… he’s like a bacon mac and cheese, warm and comforting – giving off a distinctly homely vibe, while springing the occasional surprise.
Go-getter George could be likened to a gulab jamun, much like his perfectly smooth head – made sweaty by several contestants a few times each season. Although controversial, his individualism shone through with his tough love. Like a desert that incorporates chilli, you can hate him or love him.
Gary, Gary, Gary. Eclectic and energising. A surf-and-turf in Thai red curry, he never fails to amuse and delight. He brings a certain sense of everything… a metaphorical dash of spice, a sprinkle of cinnamon that elevates a dish with its cutting flavour. But, outwardly, he’d be a classic plate of fish-and-chips – casual and fun-loving, and not too complicated.
Over the years, this trio has simmered such an appetising brand of encouragement, constructive criticism and camaraderie that, despite George’s transgressions, a grieving audience is skeptical that the show will ever be the same.
Who can fill their skillet-sized shoes? Or the cookie-cutter shaped imprints they’ve left in our hearts?
Today, as speculation regarding their replacements runs wild, fans migrate, in droves, onto social media to complain.
But perhaps we must concede that is time to move on.
The world of cooking is ever-evolving. While we may grieve, we must seize this chance to open the doors. To include a female judge, a judge of colour, or simply someone with a fresh perspective.
Thanks to Ishika Srivastava, Ranvir Punater, and Devavardhan Bajla for food metaphor suggestions.
Featured image credit: YouTube screengrab