Melissa Leong Has Passed The Judging Mantle To Poh & Sofia — & This Is The Advice She Gave Them

This season, the MasterChef Australia judging panel is receiving a bit of a shake-up. After the tragic passing of Jock Zonfrillo and the departure of Melissa Leong (who has now gone on to co-host Dessert Masters), it seems like the MasterChef kitchen will be looking a little (okay, a whole lot) different in 2024.
But don't be too worried. This season, judge Andy Allen, who is staying on the show, will be joined by three new judges —  French celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli, Melbourne-based food critic Sofia Levin, and MasterChef sweetheart and TV host, Poh Ling Yeow.
Before Poh and Sofia hit the MasterChef kitchen, they've revealed that former judge Melissa Leong reached out to the two new judges, sharing some moving words of advice.
"She [Melissa] reached out and she sent me a few texts, we had an exchange backwards and forwards," Sofia Levin tells Refinery29 Australia. Leong's words of advice? Embrace the journey.
"She was basically telling me to embrace the opportunity because so few people get it," Levin confides. "She also told me to be myself, which is what I've heard from the production team and everybody again and again — it's to just be yourself and you can't go wrong."
"That's absolutely what she did the entire time she was on MasterChef and now going onto Dessert Masters as well," Levin says.

"She was just like, go get it! It just felt like she had confidence in me, which meant a lot."

Poh Ling Yeow, about Melissa Leong's Support
Poh Ling Yeow, who was a MasterChef Australia runner-up in Season One and is now a regular in the MasterChef kitchen, also shares what Leong said to her after she scored the judging gig.
"She's always been a massive supporter, obviously," Poh tells us. "So she was just like, go get it! It just felt like she had confidence in me, which meant a lot."
Poh shares that behind the scenes, the producers really wanted her to lean into her natural hosting style, which may have influenced the advice Leong gave her. "One thing I found quite surprising about the show is that the producers have been quite reluctant to direct us," Poh divulges. "I felt really unhinged for the first half because I felt like I was a bit unanchored, not having that feedback."
"But it's because they were trying to get us to find our own voices and they didn't want to turn us into little 'hosty hosts', if you know what I mean," she continues. "They were very careful to let us discover our little niches in the foursome."
"I think Melissa would have been totally aware of that and had been through that process as well."
While some of us may still be getting used to the idea of an entirely new judging panel, I think we can rest easy (or in this case, cook), knowing that the future of MasterChef Australia is in very, very good hands.
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