Fans of the popular reality cooking show MasterChef were shocked to discover just hours before this year's grand finale that celebrity judges Gary Mehigan, Matt Preston and George Calombaris would not be returning next year.

The mass exodus was announced after the Network 10 chief executive Paul Anderson revealed the parties could not reach a deal "despite months of negotiation" and just days after Calombaris admitted to underpaying employees at his restaurants by $7.8 million, reports

But Mehigan told it "wasn't a difficult decision" to leave the show.

"Everyone knows when it's time. I made a promise to myself that when you have a job like that — and we always used to joke that we had the three best jobs in television — that when it was time to go, we would all know," Mehigan said in his role as WW (formerly Weight Watchers) ambassador.


"I think unanimously regardless of what was in the press and how it was spun and all the rest of it, I think we all felt it was time or it was really close to hand it on to someone else."

Mehigan, 52, said he never wanted his time on MasterChef to feel like I job.

"I think I was lucky enough to occupy a place and time in food and TV where I felt I was in the most wonderful food bubble and if it ever felt like a job, it was time to move on and do something else."

He said the saddest part about their sudden departure was not being able to "pass the baton" onto the next judges who are yet to be announced.

"But that wasn't the way it all panned out and it was a shame, but that's TV and it's okay," Mehigan said.

Gary, a WW (formerly Weight Watchers) ambassador said he weighed his heaviest at 106.5kg during the 2018 MasterChef season. Photo / News Corp Australia
Gary, a WW (formerly Weight Watchers) ambassador said he weighed his heaviest at 106.5kg during the 2018 MasterChef season. Photo / News Corp Australia
He now weighs 97kg but hopes to lose a few more kilos by the end of the year. Photo / Supplied
He now weighs 97kg but hopes to lose a few more kilos by the end of the year. Photo / Supplied

They will also go to South Africa in September for its renowned Appetite Festival alongside Australian chef Shannon Bennett and 2018 MasterChef winner Sashi Cheliah.

"There's lots of exciting things happening next year too and we're really looking forward to a different trajectory," Mehigan said.

The trio are also preparing to develop new concepts under the banner of their own production company GGM, which they will pitch to streaming service giants Netflix and Amazon.


Meanwhile, Preston has taken up a radio gig on the ABC Melbourne's breakfast show co-hosting with Jacinta Parsons.

Calombaris has laid low since the fallout over the underpayment scandal, telling 7.30 in an intercview: "Right now I need to be around them (my team) and also around my family. I'm not thinking about anything else but those two important things in my life that I adore."


Mehigan has been focusing on his health and lifestyle since wrapping up filming on Masterchef.

He told he weighed 106.5kg during the shooting the2018 season — "the heaviest and the most sluggish I've ever been".

The celebrity chef, who was snapped up by WW as its first ambassador in December last year, has since lost 9kg and plans to get back to a comfortable weight of 95kg by the end of this year.

"When WW approached me I just thought 'does this fit, why would I do this?'.

"I had the realisation I always thought I could do it myself, 'I am a chef I know lots about food'," Mehigan said.

"I argue endlessly with nutritionists and dietitians, so why do I need help or a framework, and then when I started, I actually realised I did — I could relate to the program which was lots of fresh food, food you could cook at home which is crucial for me

"I would have never have done it if it was food delivered to my door."

Mehigan said he was never a bad or unhealthy eater but his problem was portion control and developing bad habits.

"It was more about the balance for me — my portions were out of whack — from testing more than 20 dishes at a time on MasterChef, then going out to dinner on a Friday and Saturday night, and wondering why it's all going pear shaped."

"I'm not eliminating anything from my diet but rather than snaffling cheese at 9.30pm I make sure I am eating enough during the day.

"If I want a snack I make sure I have enough in the fridge."

You will find him at the gym five days a week mainly boxing and even sparring twice a month — something he has been doing for four years.

Mehigan, who now weighs 97kg, has also focused his attention on the release of his new cookbook, Bringing Flavour Home, in partnership with WW.

"My goal with the new WW cookbook is to prove you can still eat healthily and lose weight without losing flavour. I've reduced fats, cut back on sugar, but most importantly I've thought about what low or ZeroPoint foods I can add to the recipes to make them extra tasty."

The new cookbook includes a selection of 40 recipes inspired in part by his recent travels around places such as India and Southeast Asia as well as by the key ingredients he keeps stocked in his home pantry.

The celebrity chef is part of a list of celebrities such as Kate Hudson, Samantha Armytage and Robbie Williams — who are all WW ambassadors.