Former MasterChef judge Melissa Leong has broken her silence after Jock Zonfrillo's wife, Lauren Fried, sparked rumours of a feud between the two judges.
It was announced last week that Melissa will not continue as a judge on MasterChef, as she will instead focus on Dessert Masters, with Andy Allen being joined by season one runner-up Poh Ling Yeow, food critic and journalist Sofia Levin, and multi–Michelin Star award-winning chef, Jean-Christophe Novelli.
Lauren shared a post reacting to the new MasterChef judging lineup, saying Jock would be "very happy" with the new judges but failed to mention Melissa, leaving some fans wondering if there was something happening behind the scenes.
One line, in particular, had fans scratching their heads, with Lauren writing of the new lineup: "This is a group of people who respect the privilege of being part of such an extraordinary show, they know they’re stronger together than as individuals, and they want to nurture contestants in turning their dream of food as a career into reality."
Melissa has since broken her silence, telling the Herald Sun that she won't stop being "unapologetically" herself.
"I like to be direct. I like to be heartfelt in everything that I strive to be as real," she said. "We are all humans, humans are complex and you are allowed to have off days. For me it's about being real and that resonates with people.
"That’s why I’m here and I’m not going to shake that determination to continue being unapologetically me."
Speaking about why she chose to keep her grief more private than Andy, who appeared on The Project in the days following Jock's passing in a special tribute, Melissa recently shared that not everyone grieves in the same way.
"We all deal with loss differently, and we need to honour that," she told Stellar magazine. "Some people need to talk in order to process emotions, while other take more time to find the words, if they can at all."
Real reason behind Melissa's MasterChef departure revealed
While the Daily Telegraph has hinted that there was tension behind the scenes and that Melissa had "fallen out" with members of the crew, a Network 10 spokesperson has revealed the change in the judging panel was due to a clash with Dessert Masters.
"There is no investigation that has played any part in the deciding of our judging lineup," they told the Australian Financial Review.
"Melissa Leong remains a key member of the MasterChef Australia family. Melissa is set to return for a second season of Dessert Masters in 2024, alongside fellow judge and pastry prodigy Amaury Guichon.
"Next year, MasterChef Australia and Dessert Masters will air back-to-back, therefore each show needs its own distinct style and personality and its own unique hosting team."
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