Losing Matt, Gary and George is what Masterchef needed to become as diverse as the food it celebrates

The exit of judges Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris has been controversial, and potentially damaging, for the Masterchef brand. But, explains 3PM's Marnie Vinall, it's an opportunity to refresh the judging panel so that the franchise is represented by people as diverse as the food it celebrates.

Tuesday night was the final time we saw George Calombaris, Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan give their hot takes on a Masterchef contestant’s meringue. After pay negotiations with Ten fell apart, it was revealed that all of the judges would not be returning to the show next season, leaving three huge, celebrity-chef-shaped spots to fill.

There’s no denying that Calombaris, Preston and Mehigan have been the centre of the Masterchef brand since the show first aired in April 2009 and have helped propel it to the heights it’s reached. But, with their departure, Channel Ten has an important opportunity on their hands: giving the hosting roles to people who aren’t cisgender white men.

Adam Liaw, the winner of the second series of Masterchef Australia was right in his tweet last night.

But now it’s time to give the mantel to fresh faces and a more diverse group of people. It’s been 10 years since the show first aired, and a lot has changed in that time in the space of diversity and representation in TV.

This year, we’ve already seen Natalie Portman announced as a female Thor in the next movie and reports of Lashana Lynch in the next 007. The new Little Mermaid is Halle Bailey, an African American woman. And the Today Show brought on Indigenous woman Brooke Boney as entertainment reporter, with a dominant female hosting panel in Deb Knight and Georgie Gardner.

Now, Masterchef Australia has an opportunity to do the same and give three of Channel Ten’s biggest gigs to people who are diverse. And not only should Masterchef do so, but it must if the brand is to stay relevant.

Hours after the 2019 finale aired, Who Magazine reported that Calombaris, Preston and Mehigan will be replaced by Curtis Stone, Maggie Beer and former Masterchef contestant Poh Ling Yeow. However, a Network Ten spokesperson told Yahoo Lifestyle that “the Masterchef judges lineup for 2020 is not confirmed”.

If the rumours are true, it will be a great win for representation of women, race and age on our screens. Beer is a 74-year-old woman, and Yeow a Malaysian-born Australian woman.

Network Ten chief executive Paul Anderson said in a statement on Tuesday: “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.”

Let’s hope the next generation of Masterchef judges is as multicultural and diverse as the food it celebrates.

Marnie Vinall is a publicist and copywriter at 3PM


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