The BBC has confirmed that Monica Galetti will sit out the next season of MasterChef: The Professionals – with the judge set to "take a break" from the cookery competition show.
Galetti has been part of the judging team since joining the show for its second season in 2009, appearing alongside Gregg Wallace and Marcus Wareing in recent years, after originally starring with long-time colleague Michel Roux Jr.
In a statement announcing her departure, she cited other commitments including her family and her restaurant Mere as reasons why she has to step aside for now.
"It is with a heavy heart that I’ve made this decision to step back from filming this year’s series of MasterChef: The Professionals," she said.
"My family need me, my restaurant needs me and trying to balance long filming days over the next three months with all these commitments meant that something had to give.
"So, for the moment, my focus has to be 100% about my loved ones and rebuilding my kitchen team who have had a battering over the last few months especially," she added. " Those in the hospitality industry know just how tough it is at the moment."
“To my MasterChef family, crew and friends, I’m so sorry that I won’t be with you this year but I hope to be back soon."
She went on to thank the BBC and Shine TV for "being so understanding of [her] decision" and promised that she'd be watching the series from home.
And she parted with some words of advice for her fellow judges Wareing and Wallace: "If you’re ever unsure just think – what would Mon do?! See you soon!"
MasterChef's Executive Editor David Ambler praised Galetti as "one of the most talented chefs of her generation" and said that she was "an integral member of the MasterChef family".
"Our hope is this situation is just for this season and the door is always open for her to return," he continued.
And the BBC's Commissioning Editor for Entertainment Sarah Clay explained: "Monica is a valued member of the MasterChef family, and while we will miss her expertise and invaluable cooking and food knowledge, we fully support her filming break to focus on her family and business.
"We wish her luck and hope to see her back in the MasterChef kitchen in the future."