Melissa Leong on MasterChef Australia
Melissa Leong on MasterChef Australia

Why Mel disappeared from MasterChef

MasterChef fans tuning in to last night's episode were in for a double surprise early in the show.

Firstly, this is the first episode to have been filmed after coronavirus restrictions were put in place, meaning the close-knit MasterChef judges and contestants were suddenly spread far across the kitchen to follow social distancing guidelines.

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Secondly: Judge Melissa Leong, notable for her sudden absence.

Social distancing + no Mel = a very sparse judging panel
Social distancing + no Mel = a very sparse judging panel

"Melissa couldn't be with us today, but she'll be back on deck tomorrow," judge Jock Zonfrillo told the contestants before moving swiftly along with the show. Viewers weren't quite so quick to move on from the surprise absence of one of this season's breakout stars:

Some viewers speculated that perhaps it was no coincidence Leong's absence aligned with coronavirus restrictions being put in place - was she in iso? Or off getting tested for coronavirus?

Leong explained her absence in an Instagram post after the episode had aired last night.

"We've reached the point in our season where COVID rules come into play. As a food show, hygiene is always at the top of mind and practice, but now you'll see social distancing, too," she wrote.

"For those of you wondering where I am in this landmark episode, I had sinusitis and took myself to the GP in order to do the safe, thorough and responsible thing in such uncertain times. I was cleared and returned to set the next day."

Leong told her followers that the MasterChef cast and crew "take the health and safety of each other and our community seriously and feel fortunate to continue bringing you a season we're thrilled you love".

So there you have it - expect to see a thankfully coronavirus-free Leong back on screens tonight.

There she is!
There she is!

MasterChef continues tonight at 7.30pm on Channel 10

Originally published as Why Mel disappeared from MasterChef