Network Ten has announced that Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris will not return as judges in the next season of MasterChef Australia.
The announcement comes following revelations that Calombaris' hospitality group underpaid staff $7.8 million.
Network Ten chief executive officer Paul Anderson says the decision to drop all three chefs boiled down to a commercial agreement and thanked them for their contribution over the last 11 years.
“Despite months of negotiation, Ten has not been able to reach a commercial agreement that was satisfactory to Matt, Gary and George," Network Ten chief executive officer Paul Anderson says.
“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.
“Australia is full of remarkable cooking talent and we can’t wait to introduce another group – and the next generation of exceptional judges – in season 12 of MasterChef Australia next year.”
MasterChef's viewership has slowed in recent years, with the 2019 debut only receiving 715,000 overnight metro viewers, down from 890,000 viewers the previous year. In 2017, it clocked over one million viewers.
Yesterday, Tourism WA announced it would "pause" all campaigns featuring Calombaris. At the time, a spokesperson for Network Ten told AdNews, the broadcaster "stood by" the chef.
In addition to the backpay, Calombaris has been fined a $200,000 contrition payment to be paid to the Commonwealth Government’s Consolidated Revenue Fund.
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