Matt Preston reveals truth behind MasterChef judges’ exit
EXCLUSIVE: Matt Preston learned his MasterChef Australia journey was over on Instagram, with commiserating fans delivering the news Ten had walked away from contract negotiations with the TV star and his fellow judges.
The food critic was doing interviews on Tuesday, ahead of the show's season grand finale that night, when the network dropped its bombshell press release confirming they could not come to "commercial terms" with Preston, Gary Mehigan and their beleaguered partner and restaurateur, George Calombaris.
The CBS-owned network was facing public pressure to dump Calombaris over his $7.8 million underpayment of staff, which saw the Melbourne chef fined $200,000 by the Fair Work Ombudsman.
Ten denied Calombaris was the reason they terminated contract talks with the trio, but it was undeniably feeling the heat from advertisers, unions and protesters to distance themselves from the wage theft saga.
Preston made no excuses for Calombaris, repeating his concerns over underpayment in the hospitality industry.
"There's obviously a problem with the underpaying of some of the most vulnerable workers in Australian society, whether they are migrants, whether they are young people or casual. There's no excuse for that."
Reports talks had collapsed because the judges wanted too much money were off the mark, Preston said - with speculation they had demanded a 40 per cent increase in any new deal.
"We were happy with what was being offered, in fact we had accepted Ten's financial offer to make the next series of MasterChef," he said.
"We just failed to agree on the other terms," Preston said, adding he could "say no more" as he remains under contract with Ten, understood to be until the end of this year.
In his farewell post last week, Calombaris said "the dates just didn't align" while Mehigan told his followers: "it was time to move on, have more free time to explore our own creativity. It was never about the money and never will be about the money."
The end may have been something of a blindside - finishing abruptly at the close of season 11 - but Preston said: "I fully respect Ten's decision and genuinely hope that our departure allows them to breathe new life into the show - in large part because we want to see all our friends on the crew, many of whom we've worked with for the last six years, keep their jobs."
Response to the news "blew me away," with Preston receiving thousands of messages of support on his social media platforms.
"We make a TV show in a shed round the back of a racecourse, so it was amazing to get over 10,000 messages of support."
The trio have already been linked with new opportunities on streaming platforms, including Netflix and Amazon Prime, which have both made clear their growing appetite for cooking TV programs.
It's a booming segment of the international TV market, with high-profile chefs and food personalities being signed up to mega, multimillion-dollar deals.
While he's been named as a potential new judge on MasterChef here, the latest issue of industry magazine, The Hollywood Reporter, makes clear Gordon Ramsay has his plate full with his Fox deal for MasterChef in the US, which reportedly sees him earn $400,000 per episode, over 60 episodes a year.
With their global fan base, Preston, Mehigan and Calombaris will be hoping to capitalise with their next move in the same way.