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Exclusive: Meet the new judges for MasterChef Australia Season 12

Everything you need to know about the exciting new season...
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The judges may be fresh, but the contestants will be familiar when MasterChef Australia returns for its twelfth season in 2020.

At the Network 10 upfront presentation this morning at the ICC Sydney, Jock Zonfrillo, Melissa Leong and Andy Allen came onstage to introduce themselves as the judges for a new chapter in the MC cookbook.

Scottish-born chef Jock, who trained under Marco Pierre White, had his Adelaide eatery Restaurant Orana named Australia’s 2019 Restaurant of the Year by the Good Food Guide. Food critic Melissa was a judge for two seasons of the SBS series The Chef’s Line. And Andy won season four of MasterChef Australia.

Network 10 Chief Content Officer, Beverley McGarvey, said: “In a nation obsessed with food, we are thrilled to welcome Jock, Melissa and Andy as judges to MasterChef Australia.

“Their combined culinary credentials coupled with their passion and sheer joy for food, and their relentless enthusiasm to explore ingredients, preparation and cooking methods ensures we are in for a real treat.”

The network also announced that Gordon Ramsay, Heston Blumenthal and Curtis Stone would be amongst the guest chefs on the new season, and that “the best of the best” contestants from the past 11 seasons will return to compete in MasterChef Australia – Back To Win.

Andy Allen, Melissa Leong and Jock Zonfrillo.

To add some spice our day, TV WEEK got a chance to catch up with the new judges.

Q: In developing your chemistry, what are the things you’ve learnt about each other?

Jock: Well! [laughs] Funny you should mention that because what we have discovered is that when Melissa and I arrived this morning, we were in a dressing room like, ‘Where’s Andy?’

Melissa: We have to share a dressing room, but Andy…

J: Andy has his own dressing room because he’s a bit of a diva. That’s what we’ve uncovered this morning. And some of the demands that were coming out of his dressing room were quite extraordinary!

Andy: [laughs, blushes] “If anyone believes that has one ounce of truth in it…

M: …they don’t know you!

A: They don’t know me.

M: Look, it’s a fun opportunity to get to know each other in a different context. We all know each other outside of this world, but actually getting to know each other in this space where we are? We’re in this together now. We’re a team. So it’s exciting. It was so encouraging from the get-go. It’s already jokes and smiles and fun, and I think we all respect each other for what we bring in a technical capacity, so that’s a great place to start and we’re looking forward to building on that.

A: One thing that I think I have learnt is that I’m going to have to have pretty thick skin!

Andy won season four of MasterChef Australia.

Q: Speaking of which, Andy, as a MasterChef winner, are there certain challenges that you had always wanted to do or inflict on others that now you have the ability to do?

A: Just 100 per cent pain. [laughs] I’ve never thought about that question. That’s an interesting one! I think there are going to be new challenges. Let’s face it, like this is a new set of judges, it’s Back To Win, it has to be a little bit different, but for me, I’m a bit of a traditionalist. You know, I’d still love to see a little mystery box because that was something that I was never, ever, ever good at. And then the old pressure tests when Heston walks in there with his big bad trolley.

M: And all the jaws drop on the floor!

J: You’ll be able to recognise pressure points where we might not be able to see it because you, you’ve been standing where they are.

A: Yeah. I mean it was 76 episodes. Well that’s a long, long time. It’s a lot of challenges, and I went through the first one to the last one, bar one, ’cause I burnt myself! And, with Back To win, I’ll have relationships with most of these people because the MasterChef family is a thing. We always out for each other because when you leave that kitchen, it’s up to you and the MasterChef alumni to really band together to be successful.

Former MasterChef judges Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston.

Q: So who will wear Matt Preston’s cravats now?

J: [Pointing to his pocket square] I’ve got one of Matt’s cravats right here!

M: We all carry a bit of Matt’s cravats with us. The boys created an incredible legacy with this show, and it’s with tremendous respect, and a degree of seriousness, that we take on the next chapter. We’re not them, we’re not looking to replace them. We’re just us. And so it’s exciting.

Q: So, it’s safe to say you’re ready for this.

J: For me, I learn a ton whenever I go out for dinner anywhere and so you’ve got, you know, 76 dinners condensed into a few months. It’s pretty awesome. If you’re not looking forward to that, there’s a problem. You need to go see a doctor! So I can’t wait. It starts with a love of food and we’re very excited to build on that.

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