MasterChef Australia Stars Reveal Who Their Favourite Judges Are

Image courtesy of Channel 10
MasterChef Australia: Fans & Favourites judges Melissa Leong, Jock Zonfrillo and Andy Allen
They may be in charge of critiquing the food and deciding who goes home, but the MasterChef Australia judges play a much bigger role than that.
Some of this year's contestants have opened up about how Melissa Leong, Jock Zonfrillo and Andy Allen have shared a wealth of knowledge and support to them during the competition, essentially becoming mentors at the most challenging of times.
"I have a favourite judge, and it's Andy," Keyma Vasquez Montero tells Refinery29 Australia.
This year's season is called MasterChef Australia: Fans & Favourites, where half of the contestants are previous contenders (Favourites) and the other half are amateur cooks (Fans). As one of the first-time participants, AKA a 'Fan', Montero says she looked up to Allen a lot during filming because he'd been in her position before.
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"He's the most successful winner in all the seasons to me. He's been through the show before as a contestant and all that he's achieved so far, [makes him] an inspiring one," she says. "Obviously, he knows what the struggles are in the MasterChef kitchen and I think he understands our position at the moment."
Meanwhile, Sarah Todd, who first appeared in Season 6, says she learnt new skills from the current judging trio after previously filming with original judges, Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston in 2014.
"Like anything in life, whenever you have a new person or a new expert that's giving you advice, you just learn and grow so much," says Todd. "So having the new judges just felt like a whole new experience, which was amazing.
"But for me personally, I really felt like Jock's experience and cooking style is something that I really admire. I think he really pushed me the most and helped me to grow in my cooking style."
The 34-year-old, known for her specialty in Indian cuisine, is classically trained in French cookery from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Seeing a reflection of herself in the Scottish celebrity chef, Todd says she observed personal growth after leaning on his expertise.
"His personal style, of a lot of those French techniques but bringing in Australian native ingredients, is kind of what I do with with French techniques and Indian flavours," she explains.
"So, every time I watched him cook or he would give feedback, it's something that I really took on board and I think what helped me to grow the most."
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Like Montero, TikTok influencer Montana Hughes is another first-time MasterChef contestant. She auditioned for the old judges a few years back, but says "Andy, Jock and Mel's perspective is a lot fresher". She particularly warmed to Leong, whose approach made her feel at ease on and off camera.
"Just to have Mel's presence in the kitchen as well is really soothing and calming," says Hughes. "She just knows what to say. The way she is on TV — how lovely and sweet she is — she's more so in the kitchen.
"She has chats to us off-set after a cook and she's just feeling what we're feeling. Obviously we don't have family here and to have someone to lean on and chat to is so helpful."
Mehigan, Calombaris and Preston were MasterChef's judges for a decade — from the first season in 2009 starring Julie Goodwin and Poh Ling Yeow, up until 2019. Channel 10 replaced them with Zonfrillo, Leong and Allen in 2020. Gold Logie nominee Leong's casting has since been widely praised by audiences and cast members for signifying a positive move towards better female representation, encouraging women in food to thrive on their own terms.
The previous judges have gone on to continue their food careers, and Preston was recently announced as a new judge on the 2022 season of My Kitchen Rules.
Montero, Todd and Hughes have all made it to the top 12 on the show which started off with 24 fans and favourites.
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The favourites have included Julie Goodwin (Season 1), Billie McKay (Season 7), Sashi Cheliah (Season 10), Alvin Quah (Season 2), Michael Weldon (Season 3) Mindy Woods (Season 4), Christina Batista (Season 5), Sarah Todd (Season 6), John Carasig (Season 7), Aldo Ortado (Season 10), Minoli De Silva (Season 13) and Tommy Pham (Season 13).
The fans include Ali Stoner, Jenn Lee, Chris Tran, Daniel Lamble, Dulan Hapuarachchi, Harry Tomlinson, Keyma Vasquez Montero, Montana Hughes, Matt Landmark, Max Krapivsky, Melanie Persson and Steph Woon.
MasterChef Australia: Fans & Favourites airs Sunday to Thursday at 7:30pm on Channel 10 and 10Play.
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