Matt Preston pays tribute to ‘forgotten’ MasterChef host


The TV presenter and author — who went on to kickstart a wellness craze with her I Quit Sugar diet book series — served as host for MasterChef’s first season way back in 2009. By season two, she’d left the show, with Preston, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris serving as both judges and hosts.

“It was 11 years ago that the four of us started out on an epic odyssey together and, like the best mythologies, one of us — i’m looking at you Sarah Wilson — went off to help make the world a far better place as an internationally best-selling author while Gary Mehigan got much better hair, George Calombaris shrunk, and I got a much needed hair cut (but compensated by growing a beard),” wrote Preston in an Instagram post alongside vintage photos of the original team together.

“Love you all guys – for the memories and for the future.”

Host Sarah Wilson with judges (L-R) Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston.Source:News Limited

Before MasterChef debuted in 2009, Channel 10’s then head of programming David Mott enthusiastically spruiked Wilson’s talents as an essential part of the network’s new cooking reality show.

“Sarah Wilson has an addictive passion for food and wine, and a vibrant on-screen presence that makes her a natural host for MasterChef Australia,” he said.

“We have no doubt that Australian viewers will embrace her.”

But after just one season, her talents were found to be surplus to requirements.

“Sarah Wilson was perfectly lovely in what was essentially a traffic cop role but 10 found it was ancillary to the format,” TV Tonight’s David Knox told news.com.au earlier this year.

“Wilson was left to do little more than read the autocue. Much of the hosting fell to Gary Mehigan, something that would never have happened if other personalities were in the role,” he said at the time.

Preston and Wilson, July 2009.

Preston and Wilson, July 2009.Source:News Limited

There was one incident in the first season that underlined why there was no need for a separate host.

“It was Gary Mehigan who stepped up, on the back of a scene in the first series where he encouraged a contestant not to quit the show,” Mr Knox said.

“Normally that’s the kind of task that would fall to a host.”

With the MasterChef “three musketeers” dramatically departing the show this year due to an ongoing pay dispute, the franchise will continue next year with three new judges: Jock Zonfrillo, Melissa Leong and Andy Allen.

New MasterChef Australia judges Andy Allen, Melissa Leong and Jock Zonfrillo. Supplied by Channel 10.

New MasterChef Australia judges Andy Allen, Melissa Leong and Jock Zonfrillo. Supplied by Channel 10.Source:News Regional Media

Zonfrillo was named Australia’s Hottest Chef in 2018 and has hosted television shows including Nomad Chef, Restaurant Revolution and Chef Exchange.

Leong is an accomplished food and travel writer, food media consultant, radio broadcaster, television presenter, MC and cookbook editor. And MasterChef fans will perhaps remember Andy Allen, who won season four of the cooking show.

Meanwhile, Preston and Gary Mehigan have officially secured a new hosting gig on Seven, leaving embattled former colleague George Calombaris, who faced an underpayment scandal earlier this year when it was revealed his business empire underpaid 515 staff by $7.8 million.

Next year the two former MasterChef judges will head a new program with My Kitchen Rules star Manu Feildel called Plate of Origin, launching around the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Dubbed “the Olympics of cooking”, the program will see teams showcase different cuisines in a competitive setting.





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