Former MasterChef star Matt Preston admits he had his doubts after he, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris dramatically departed the show that made them household names.
The trio abruptly left Network 10 on the eve of MasterChef's season 11 finale last year. While he put on a brave face in public, Preston admits in a new interview with Stellar magazine he did question his decision.
"There were definite dark moments when I sat there and said to myself, 'What have I done? Have I made the right decision? Should I have taken the money and the safe option and stayed?'" he tells Karlie Rutherford.
But Preston insists the stalemate with 10 was never about money – rather, it was about them having the time and freedom to pursue other opportunities outside MasterChef.
"We always said that we would stay together or go together," he tells Stellar now. "On the show we always lined up together: Gary, George and myself. If one of us wasn't there, we would refuse to narrow the gap or stand in someone else's place. Because it didn't feel right."
Ultimately, Preston said leaving MasterChef was made easier by the fact TV had never been his first love.
"I asked myself a really simple question: 'Is this the worst thing that could happen career wise?' And the answer was no. I loved working on the show. I loved the people I worked with. I am always going to be thankful for the experiences I had doing that show. But the worst thing that could have happened was if I lost the writing gigs. That's who I am. I always defined myself as a food writer."
Maybe so, but he hasn't stayed off screens for too long – Preston was poached by the Seven Network and will soon appear on the brand new cooking show, Plate of Origin, along with MasterChef mate Gary Mehigan and former MKR judge Manu Feildel.
He's previously admitted he didn't watch this season of MasterChef – the show's most successful in years, with an all-new judging panel of Melissa Leon, Jock Zonfrillo and Andy Allen. But there are no hard feelings: Rather, Preston sees MasterChef's success as an indication that Plate of Origin could follow in its footsteps.
"The worst thing that could have happened is for MasterChef to go belly up because it would have said there is no interest in food television. It would have been awful if the show had become something it wasn't. That would have been hard to stomach."
Preston isn't the only MasterChef alumni who didn't watch this season – Mehigan also revealed on the Food Bytes podcast with Sarah Patterson he hadn't caught a single episode.
"I'm really excited about the new phase of my life," Mehigan said on the podcast. "We had one-off, once-in-a-lifetime experiences with those contestants. I don't need to see them have another go."
In a recent interview with news.com.au, Preston said he was excited to be teaming up with former cooking show rival Feildel for Plate of Origin.
"It would have felt weird if it had been anyone other than Manu. I've known Manu for a decade – I've always liked him. He's such a great character and he's also so knowledgeable about food and I think that's something that we haven't seen enough of."
Preston told news.com.au that he and Feildel and Mehigan did a week-long road trip before shooting Plate Of Origin, saying it was "a really great way of getting up to speed so that when we started filming we felt comfortable".
"George, Gary and I, we're like an old married couple," he said. "We could all finish each others sentences. But it's amazing how quickly we managed to achieve that with Manu, that same level of understanding.
"We filmed the promo the other day and we just laughed for two hours," Preston said. "Gary described it as the best ab workout he's had in the last four months."