The three charismatic judges of the MasterChef Australia cooking contest have walked out of the kitchen en masse amid a dispute over pay.
Producers announced that Tuesday night’s show — the finale of season 11 — was the last time Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris would adjudicate the contestants’ dishes.
The Network 10 cooking contest, which has been running since 2009, has a huge following overseas. Indeed many South Africans are fans.
Gary, however, took to Instagram to say “it was never about the money and never will be about the money”.
“It was time to move on, have more free time to explore our own creativity … We couldn’t agree on the term of the new contract for 2020 and season 12. Something we felt very strongly about,” he posted.
George also weighed in on Instagram, saying “We were close to signing a new contract for season 12 however the dates just didn’t align”.
The departure comes after Calombaris was fined for underpaying staff at his own restaurants by millions of Australian dollars.
The country’s attorney-general even weighed in on the dispute, suggesting Calombaris got off lightly with an Aus$200k (about R1,9m) fine.
Speculation has been rife about who might replace the trio, and whether viewers can stomach another serving of MasterChef without them.
So what’s next for Gary, George and Matt? The Sydney Morning Herald reports that they’ve been involved in “confidential discussions with rival TV networks and streaming services about a new series aimed at a global audience”.