Calombaris backs new MasterChef despite fans’ sad reaction
George Calombaris has heaped praise on the new MasterChef Australia era, drawing comments from fans who are saddened he is no longer part of the line-up.
The embattled celebrity chef left the Ten reality cooking show last July along with fellow judges Gary Mehigan and Matt Preston over a pay dispute.
Since then, the Melbourne celebrity chef has faced financial difficulties with the collapse of his restaurant empire.
Calombaris took to Instagram after the opening episode of the new MasterChef series, congratulating the "awesome crew, contestants and judges".
Fans were quick to comment on his post, with many lamenting the departure of the original three judges.
"George, good luck to you we definitely missed you three and the connection you have, please come back together with something new and fun," one fan wrote.
Another said she was upset over the absence of Calombaris, Mehigan and Preston in a show that was filled with former MasterChef contestants.
"The thought of not seeing you guys among my favourite contestants just makes me teary," she wrote.
Another fan posted: "I love it but I missed you guys, I have to say."
Even fellow celebrity chef Curtis Stone chimed in, describing Calombaris as "a gentleman".
The new MasterChef era, which opened with Gordon Ramsay, at the helm as a guest judge continued its strong opening performance in the ratings.
After notching more than 1.23 million viewers across five capital cities for its Season 12 launch on Monday, more than 1.04 million people tuned in for Episode 2 on Tuesday.
The program beat ABC's 7.30 (707,000), Seven's House Rules: High Stakes (499,000) and Nine's A Current Affair (794,000).
Tuesday night's episode saw the 24 contestants split into two teams - blue and green - who were then tasked with cooking a three-course meal for 120 people.
The blue team lost and will not appear in Sunday's elimination.
NEW MASTERCHEF SEASON: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
When Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris handed in their notice after 11 seasons of MasterChef Australia, the prognosis the show would survive was as likely as a contestant nailing a risotto.
Slim to none.
It was a boilover no one saw coming, as the original trio of judges left the Channel 10 blockbuster behind, unable to come to terms and instead, leaving to plot their TV futures elsewhere.
What would the MasterChef kitchen look like without Gary eating all the pork crackle, George tapping his spoon on the serving bench and Matt bellowing time calls like a jubilant sideshow alley showman?
Well, that carnival is over, and a new circus has come to town, starring former MasterChef winner, Andy Allen, food writer and The Chef's Line co-host Melissa Leong and Orana chef and restaurateur, Jock Zonfrillo - and the good news is they're onto another winner.
In a few masterful production changes, the responsibility for keeping this show on the road is shared with visiting guest judge Gordon Ramsay, who adds his star power to the first week of this season.
Ramsay, who has been a regular visitor to MasterChef Australia, as well as hosting the US franchise, anchors the return episode with authority, his trademark humour and a touching graciousness, by holding the hands of Allen, Leong and Zonfrillo.
If there's any uncertainty about what this new era is about, Ramsay is ready to steady the ship, and remind the audience this show still has the power to warm your heart and your home (especially in these uncertain times).
But the biggest change - and arguably the master stroke move by management - is the return of 24 familiar faces and favourite contestants from previous seasons.
Poh is there, grinning like a Cheshire cat and dropping F bombs with her mate, Ramsay.
Leaving his surfboard at the door is Hayden, who returns a TV star in his own right but some insecurities that show in his first cook.
There's dessert king, Reynold, back with a focus that would do Julie Bishop proud.
Like the UK spin-off, MasterChef Professionals - where young pro chefs compete for the title - the skill level this season will blow your mind.
Where the audition episodes of previous years on MasterChef Australia saw one or two outliers present restaurant quality dishes, the new season premiere delivers a menu of food you'd expect to see served up in a grand final. They are that good.
And that's where the ghost of Matt and Gary and George looms large.
They were the first to see the potential in all of the contestants who have come 'back to win' this season - nurturing them into the industry-ripened, skilled cooks they are today.
We are about to be spoiled with extraordinary dishes - taking stock of how far these MasterChef graduates have come; sharing with the home audience all that they've learned since their last time on the show.
As for the new judges?
They don't put a foot wrong: with Allen sharing a natural camaraderie with the contestants; Leong sashaying into the kitchen with an impressive swing and confidence in her step; and Zonfrillo, my favourite, dishing out gravitas and the first big hug of the season.
Now we just need someone to nail a risotto and this new generation will have broken the mould, in a good way.
* MasterChef Australia, 7.30pm, Monday April 13 on 10.
Originally published as Calombaris backs new MasterChef despite fans' sad reaction