Food and Travel writer Melissa Leong will join the lineup of three new judges to front MasterChef Australia, marking the first time the Australian version of the show has had a permanent female judge.
She joins chef and restaurant owner Jock Zonfrillo, and season four winner Andy Allen in the trio, after Matt Preston, George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan suddenly left the show earlier this year.
Leong is a food and travel writer, editor and presenter, and first-generation Singaporean Australian who has previously written about diversity in food writing. She has described the new role as “the opportunity or a lifetime” that has come as a “huge surprise.”
— #MasterChefAU (@masterchefau) October 9, 2019
Asked by 10 Daily what she’ll bring to the show, Leong responded: “In a word, diversity.”
“I am proud to be an Australian woman of colour in this position and at this time in the world. With that, comes a difference of perspective from voices and backgrounds we’ve never met before.”
She previously spent a number of years in digital advertising, but then followed a lifelong passion for food into writing a food blog, which later got noticed by bigger publishers who offered her columns. She’s more recently been a presenter on SBS’s The Chef’s Line.
Earlier this year she responded to rumours that she was in the running to be a Masterchef judge, telling her social media followers that: “I don’t want to be the next Matt Preston. I don’t want to be the next anyone, for that matter. I want to be the first ME.”
Today, Leong has shared the official news on Instagram, saying that she is thrilled to be part of the 2020 season.
”I could never have dreamed that I would be asked to be part of the next chapter of this great Australian legacy, and it is with deep respect and appreciation for everything that has come before, that we take our first steps into the new,” she wrote.
“Thank you to everyone for their belief and support and a huge HELLO to those of you I am yet to know! Goodbyes are hard, and greeting new people isn’t always easy, but bringing everything I have to the table is a promise I make to you, and one I plan to keep.”
The season featuring the new judges will air in 2020.