Big names tipped as new MasterChef judges
CURTIS Stone, Poh Ling Yeow and Maggie Beer are among the talented chefs named by Australians as their picks to take over judging duties on MasterChef.
Poh, 46, is a former runner up on the first season of the show, who has gone on to have a successful TV and cookbook career.
Beer, 74, is a renowned chef best known for her Pheasant Farm in South Australia's Barossa Valley and line of gourmet food products. Beer and chef Simon Bryant co-hosted four seasons of The Cook and the Chef.
Stone, 43 found fame hosting Australian cooking programs My Restaurant Rules on Channel 7 and Surfing the Menu on the ABC before moving to the Los Angeles in 2006 where he has been based ever since, eventually opening restaurants Gwen and Maude, the latter of which this year earned a Michelin star.
When contacted by news.com.au, a Network 10 spokesperson said: "Maggie, Curtis and Poh are loved members of the MasterChef family. We are currently casting the judges for 2020 and no decision has been made."
Meanwhile, Twitter users also suggested top Australian chefs Kylie Kwong and Shannon Bennett as possible contenders, and former MasterChef contestant Justine Schofield, who has gone on to have a successful run of cooking shows and recipe books.
I would make Justine Schofield an odds-on favourite to be a new #MasterChefAU judge. Big Ten personality and a relatable female lead. Curtis Stone will also be a favourite based on Coles' continued partnership with the show. 3rd could be a young up-and-comer vs big name— Adam Freedman (@adam_freedman) July 23, 2019
Okay. My vote is for Poh Ling Yeow, Kylie Kwong and Curtis Stone to be the new judges of #MasterChefAU!— Rob (@Robbie_Milano) July 23, 2019
New judges - Curtis Stone, Justine Schofield, Shannon Bennett #Masterchefau— Kerry Croy (@kerrycroy) July 23, 2019
Ten's chief executive Paul Anderson told News Corp Australia on Tuesday the network is looking to sign some big-name MasterChef guest favourites to replace the outgoing trio, such as Stone, Nigella Lawson or Gordon Ramsay.
"There's a long list of people who are keen to be part of the franchise, so we've got all that in our favour," Mr Anderson said.
A Network 10 spokesperson said: "Maggie, Curtis and Poh are loved members of the MasterChef family. We are currently casting the judges for 2020 and no decision has been made."
A NEW SHOW FOR OUTGOING JUDGES?
As the question of just who will helm the popular series lingers, Calombaris, Mehigan and Preston look set to shift focus back to their thriving restaurant empires. It is possible, however, the trio won't be away from the small-screen for long; they're suspected to be eyeing a multi-million dollar deal with a platform like Netflix or Amazon Prime.
The appeal of a global TV platform and international audience is obvious for Preston, Mehigan and Calombaris, who are household names in Australia but virtual unknowns overseas. However, there's no guarantee the concept would find the success in a streaming service format that it has on prime-time network television.
The popularity of one-time Top Gear hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May has tanked since they left the BBC in 2015 to start a similar show, The Grand Tour, on Amazon Prime.
At the time of Clarkson and co.'s deal with Amazon, a Netflix executive revealed they'd passed on the trio saying they weren't "worth the money".
"We have past episodes of Top Gear, so we have a pretty good gauge of what audiences like.
"Our buying decisions tend to be somewhat data-driven … clearly it wasn't worth the money to make the deal."
Following the news of Calombaris, Mehigan and Preston's exit on Tuesday, Mehigan took to Instagram to insist the decision to leave wasn't about a pay dispute.
"It was never about the money and never will be about the money," he said.
It's true that Mehigan, Preston and Calombaris are far from broke, enabling them to walk away from their MasterChef contact negotiations after Network Ten refused their demands for a 40 per cent pay increase.
All three were on salaries in excess of $1 million as MasterChef judges, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Calombaris' hospitality group MAdE Establishment comprises 20 restaurants across Australia, most of them in Melbourne, including The Press Club, Hellenic Republic, Gazi, Jimmy Grants and Yo-Chi.
A Fair Work investigation last week concluded Calombaris, 40, had underpaid more than 500 staff across his restaurant empire to the tune of more than $7.8 million.
His company, Made Establishment, received just a $200,000 fine.
Meanwhile, Mehigan, 52, is believed to have made millions in 2013 when he sold his Melbourne restaurant Fenix to the Leonda By The Yarra function group after 13 years.
He also owns restaurant The Boathouse in the northwest Melbourne suburb Moonee Ponds, and in addition to MasterChef has starred in several cooking shows: Good Chef, Bad Chef, Boy's Weekend and Far Flung With Gary Mehigan.
Preston, 57, is a celebrated food writer, columnist, critic, presenter and best-selling cookbook author, with titles including Yummy, Easy, Quick and Cravat-A-licious.