04/05/2020 1:14 PM AEST | Updated 07/07/2020 2:40 PM AEST

MasterChef Australia's Dani Venn Says Melissa Leong 'Criticised The Most Because She's A Female'

The eliminated contestant said some people would feel "threatened" by a female judge who is "intelligent, educated and assertive".

Since joining ‘MasterChef Australia: Back To Win’ this year, new judges Andy Allen, Melissa Leong and Jock Zonfrillo have attracted mixed reactions from viewers. 

However, the show’s most recently eliminated contestant Dani Venn has said she believes Melissa has received the most criticism because she’s a woman. 

“Women are underrepresented in so many industries, in particular food and also media,” Dani told HuffPost Australia on Monday. “To have Melissa step into that role, I knew from the start she would be the one getting criticised the most, purely because she’s a female.

Channel 10
'MasterChef Australia: Back To Win' judges Andy Allen, Melissa Leong and Jock Zonfrillo

“There’s a lot more to criticise her about unfortunately,” she continued.  

Dani said that while the male judges don’t get critiqued about how they look, Melissa’s appearance has often been scrutinised on social media. 

“People tend to oversee things... [for example] Andy and Jock, it doesn’t matter about their shoes or hair or whatever it is, but they’ll [some viewers] be very critical of Melissa.

“And it’s threatening for a lot of people for a strong woman who is intelligent and educated and assertive... that’s threatening, so unfortunately a lot of people like to bring those women down.” 

This year Andy, Melissa and Jock have replaced original judges Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston who fronted the Channel 10 show for 10 years.  

Dani said the new trio are “incredible” and “bring something different to the table”. 

“It’s like they’ve always been MasterChef judges. It was really touching to see passing of the baton with Gordon Ramsay in that first week, and then for them really to step into their new roles,” she said.

“I think they are all incredible. They all bring something different to the table and I think it’s a new chapter of MasterChef and it’s been so well-received and it’s lovely to be part of that.” 

This season of the show is called ‘MasterChef: Back To Win’, with 24 previous contestants including Poh Ling Yeow, Hayden Quinn, Reynold Poernomo and Callum Hann returning to the series for another shot at victory.

‘MasterChef Australia: Back To Win’ continues at 7:30pm on Channel 10. 

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