The MasterChef Australia judging panel has had a shake-up, with three new judges, Poh Ling Yeow, Jean-Christophe Novelli and Sofia Levin, joining Andy Allen in 2024.
The news comes just over five months after former judge Jock Zonfrillo’s tragic and sudden death, and his ex-co-host Melissa Leong is noticeably missing from the team.
While Leong won’t be appearing as a judge on MasterChef Australia 2024, she will be heading up the show’s spin-off, Dessert Masters, alongside Amaury Guichon which premieres on Sunday, 12 November.
Instead, Allen, who won season four of MC and has hosted the show since season 12 will be joined by three fresh new faces. Find out more about them below.
Poh Ling Yeow
Like Allen, Ling Yeow is a former MasterChef Australia contestant. She narrowly missed out on the show’s first title, coming in runner-up to Julie Goodwin in season one.
The Malaysian-born cook went on to launch a career in the media and has hosted multiple cooking shows including ABC’s Poh’s Kitchen and SBS’s Poh & Co.
She returned as a contestant on MasterChef Australia season 12 and has made multiple appearances on the franchise as a mentor and guest judge.
“Talk about a thrilling, full-circle moment. MasterChef Australia is where my food story began, so this feels like coming home,” she said.
“A big part of me will always be standing on the other side with the contestants and I hope when they look to me, they see proof you don’t have to win to win.”
Novelli is a lauded French chef, author, and restaurateur who has been awarded four Michelin Stars. He is the owner of a chain of Novelli restaurants in London as well as one of the world’s top cookery schools.
It’s not Novelli’s first foray into reality TV either, he’s appeared in multiple episodes of the hugely popular Gordon Ramsay-led series Hell’s Kitchen. He also hosted a Bravo show called Chef Academy in 2009.
“Fostering culinary talent is something I have cared about for many years, and it is a passion I am excited to share in the MasterChef Kitchen,” he said.
“Australian cuisine has a remarkable reputation on the world stage, and it will be a great privilege to meet and mentor the country’s top home cooks on their journeys to greatness.”
Levin is somewhat filling Leong’s shoes as the food journalist on the panel. She runs a food and travel website called The Seasoned Traveller and spearheaded the recent #EatCuriously movement.
“The first season of MasterChef Australia aired the same year I started writing about food,” she said.
“By the time I graduated from journalism, I was sharing lesser-known food stories, while the show was exposing the nation to cuisines and cultures they had never considered before. Becoming a judge on MasterChef feels like two parallel paths converging, and I am giddy with excitement at the people I get to stand beside.”
Allen began his MasterChef Australia journey back in 2012 when he won the popular cooking show. In 2012 he, Zonfrillo and Leong took the judging reigns from OGs Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston.
“MasterChef Australia has been part of my life for over a decade. It gave me a pathway into the industry and led me to a career that I’m forever grateful for. After an extremely difficult year in 2023, and upon reflection, the decision to return to the series is not one I took lightly,” he said.
“But there is something special in the MasterChef Australia Kitchen, and it feels right to come back to work with the amazing production team, and to play my role in seeing the contestants do as I have done.
“2024 will be the start of a new chapter, and it will be surreal – yet brilliant – to share this moment with my fellow judges, Poh, Sofia and Jean-Christophe.”
MasterChef Australia season 16 airs in 2024 on 10 and 10Play.