The super-popular reality cooking series MasterChef is about to lose a familiar face.
Judge Joe Bastianich, who has been with the show since it began, announced he is stepping down after the third season of MasterChef Junior, which premieres Jan. 6.
Bastianich is one of three judges on the show, including superstar chef Gordon Ramsay and restaurateur Graham Elliot. According to Daily Digest News, producers are currently seeking a replacement for Bastianich.
The producers of the show released a statement saying Bastianich played an “integral role in the success of MasterChef and MasterChef Junior,” and that even after he’s gone, he will “always remain a member of the MasterChef family.”
The show will definitely not be the same without Bastianich, but this opens up a chance for another famous chef to fill his position. Guy Fieri, anyone? Or, my personal favorite, Scott Conant of Chopped fame.
Bastianich is departing the show so he can focus his time on his own pursuits, including the Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, which he co-owns, and his own endeavor, Eataly. He said in his announcement about leaving MasterChef that it had “been a pleasure working alongside Gordon and Graham on five seasons of MasterChef and three seasons of MasterChef Junior.”
Bastianich isn’t leaving television altogether, either. He will remain a judge on the spin-off show MasterChef Italia, is expected to appear on the second season of CNBC’s Restaurant Startup and will have a hand in a number of food-related shows on Italian networks.