'MasterChef' Judge Joe Bastianich to Exit

Producers are searching for a third judge to join Gordon Ramsay and Graham Elliot
Joe Bastianich  Justin Stephens / FOX

Just in time for Thanksgiving, Fox's MasterChef is losing one of its key judges.

Joe Bastianich, who serves as a judge on both the flagship series and youth-oriented MasterChef Junior, will exit the series after the latter's third season. Producers are currently looking for a third judge to join Gordon Ramsay and Graham Elliot.

"Joe has played an integral role in the success of both MasterChef and MasterChef Junior, and we all appreciate his incredible culinary insight, sense of humor and passion. He will always remain a member of the MasterChef family," producers Shine America, One Potato Two Potato and Fox said in a joint statement.

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Bastianich, a restaurateur with eateries in New York, Las Vegas, L.A. and Singapore,  has served as a judge for on both series. His last run will be with MasterChef Junior, which returns for its third season on Jan. 6.

"After several gratifying years as a judge on MasterChef and MasterChef Junior, I have decided to step down from my role on the show," Bastianich said in a statement. "It has been a pleasure working alongside Gordon and Graham on five seasons of MasterChef and three seasons of MasterChef Junior, and I look forward to continuing my current collaborations with Shine America. As co-owner and partner of the Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, as well as Eataly throughout the Americas, I will be focusing my time and energies on their continued global expansion."

Bastianich will also appear in season two of CNBC's Restaurant Startup, which also returns in January. He will continue to be a judge on MasterChef Italia. He recently acquired Italian production company Todos Contentos and is currently in production on season two of On the Road for Italy's Sky Network.

Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group will be opening Regina Ristorante at the Maritime Hotel in New York and is developing new Eataly outposts at the World Trade Center and in Sao Paolo, among other locales.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit

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