MasterChef judges
MasterChef judges

‘We feared for George Calombaris’s mental health’: Gary

Former MasterChef judge Gary Mehigan said he had grave fears for colleague George Calombaris's mental health when they were dumped from the show.

Judges for 11 seasons of the hit show, Mehigan, Calombaris and Matt Preston were ruthlessly let go in July, with Channel 10 CEO Paul Anderson citing contractual issues.

Dumped MasterChef judges George Calombaris, Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan. Picture: Mark Cranitch.
Dumped MasterChef judges George Calombaris, Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan. Picture: Mark Cranitch.

It was revealed later the network had not even informed the trio they had lost their jobs - they found out from the headlines.

Mehigan has admitted he cried when he discovered his fate and was especially worried for Calombaris, who had been the focus of negative headlines about underpayment of staff.

Mehigan said, as a friend of 20 years, he feared the ordeal would break Calombaris.

"We were worried about his mental health - I just thought no human can go through all this and come out in one piece at the end of it," Mehigan said.

"But he's in a much better place now. He's focused entirely on the business and leaving MasterChef is good for him at the moment.

"I said to George, you may have thought your legacy in hospitality was introducing Greek food to a different generation but probably this is more important than anything you've done. What happened will affect everybody in the industry from this point on."

Gary Mehigan said he was worried about how much his mate George Calombaris could take. Picture: Lachie Millard
Gary Mehigan said he was worried about how much his mate George Calombaris could take. Picture: Lachie Millard

Mehigan, who this week launched season three of his podcast A Plate To Call Home with PodcastOne, denied the three had demanded 40 per cent pay increases, as Channel 10 told media.

"We'd agreed on money and it was about the terms of the contract," he told Confidential. "What we didn't want to do anymore was essentially be network talent signed up year by year where we didn't have the opportunity to go off and do our own projects. That was the sticking point.

Popular judges Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston line up for MasterChef. Picture: Ten
Popular judges Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston line up for MasterChef. Picture: Ten

"The only thing I'm disappointed about is that we couldn't come to a commercial agreement that allowed us to continue filming MasterChef and the freedom to go off and do something different.

"Standing on those MasterChef floorboards is a privilege, but it's also not the most exciting thing to do for six months of the year.

"Once it started to feel that it wasn't exciting, it's time to move on."