Melissa Leong’s signature warmth has shone in the first episode of MasterChef 2021.
The beloved judge opened the season with a stirring speech, looking close to tears as she addressed the challenge that was 2020.
“Last year, our world turned upside down,” she began as she welcomed the new group of contestants alongside Andy Allen and Jock Zonfrillo.
“And although it was tough, it forced us all to reassess what is most important in our lives. Last year may have been a time of change, but this year is a time of opportunity.”
Going on to address the show’s new social distancing regulations, she added: “Now usually you’d be here surrounded by your family and friends, but sadly this year that’s not possible.
“So I would like to invite you to take a look around at each other because as of today, we welcome you to the MasterChef family.
“Support each other, celebrate each other’s successes, have each other’s backs when things are not so great. We want to see you grow and thrive and be the best that you can be. That’s what makes us so proud to be part of this family together,” she concluded.
The new season comes after a wildly successful first year on the judging panel for Leong, who quickly secured herself a viewer and contestant favourite due to her ability to genuinely connect with the cooks.
But it’s been a difficult time for Leong off screen, having had her relationship break down during the pandemic.
Leong announced her separation from her husband Joe Jones in December last year after almost four years of marriage.
The 38-year-old shared the news on Instagram, writing: “It has brought us such happiness to walk together, but the time has come for Joe and I to part ways and walk on, apart.
“We ask for your kindness and consideration for our privacy, we will not be making any further comment as our private lives have, and will always remain exactly that.
“We wish you peace at the end of such a challenging year for all.”
Melissa shared previously that she and Joe were married after only five months of dating, because “when you know, you know”.
“I first met him briefly at his bar in Melbourne, Romeo Lane,” she told TV Week.
“Then we met again properly about 18 months later at a function. We started talking there and we’ve just not ever ceased since really. It’s pretty cool.”
MasterChef Australia continues at 7.30pm tomorrow on Channel 10