Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris, Shannon Bennett (guest judge) and Matt Preston. Picture: Supplied

With three judging positions up for grabs for the next season of "MasterChef Australia", speculation is rife among fans, TV critics and industry insiders, as to who could - or should -  fill those shoes. 

After all, Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston certainly brought their culinary expertise, well-travelled palate, wit, humour and distinct personality to the table. 

These traits remain crucial ingredients for the success of a show of this nature - not to mention, stature. 

While broadcaster Ten weighs its options for suitable replacements to switch things up, there are a few candidates who not only sizzle in the kitchen but can bring that added spark and zing to the show. 

And the favourite contenders are:

Shannon Bennett. Picture: Supplied

Shannon Bennett: A name that is synonymous with awards, one of them being the Best New Talent honours by Gourmet Traveller Magazine. He’s also penned a plethora of cookbooks.  As with any successful chef-cum-restaurateur, controversy is par for the course. 

But that doesn't take away from his clout in the culinary space. Aside from playing a crucial hand in putting Vue de Monte at Melbourne’s Rialto Tower, on the map, he has several over venues that bear his signature dishes. 

Why do we favour him for this role? Well, he's fearless, innovative, full of knowledge and he’s been a guest judge on the show so audiences are already au fait with him. Did I mention that he has worked with some of the world's greatest chefs, too? 

Matt Moran. Picture: Supplied

Matt Moran: If no one is going to say it, I will. It’s about time he stopped being a guest and became a regular on a cooking show. He’s been on "MasterChef Australia" since season 3. This lanky chef turned restaurateur in 1991 with The Paddington Inn Bistro. 

Not too long after, a successful partnership led to the introduction of Moran’s Restaurant and Café. A fan of fresh produce and farmers markets, he’s also got plenty of experience in this world. 

The epitome of collected, he exudes a warmth that's infectious and has a wealth of knowledge. He would be a wonderful culinary oracle on the show. 

Kylie Kwong. Picture: Supplied

Kylie Kwong: A female judge would go a long way in diluting a very testosterone-charged show. A third-generational Chinese Australian, she understands technique very well. 

Having written a few books while navigating the joys and setbacks of life as a restaurateur, she has oodles of personality, too. A bonus, she isn’t camera shy. She’s done plenty of TV work to hold her own when partnered with co-judges. 

Honestly, I think she will be refreshing in the value she would add as well as the advice she would dish out. 

Brent Owens. Picture: Supplied

Brent Owen: Okay, we already love him. He is young, adventurous and creative. And he understands the pressures of being on the “other side” - he won season six of "MasterChef Australia". 

And he has a cookbook, 'Dig In', out as well as several TV shows to his credit. By the way, he also shot his cooking show, 'Brent Owens: Extreme, Authentic & Unwrapped', in South Africa. He went on to do, 'Brent Owens Unwraps Mauritius'. 

Can they just sign him up, already?

Curtis Stone. Picture: Jason Laveris

Curtis Stone: Also known as “The Quiet Terminator”, Stone has the look of a movie star and skill of cooking god. And he’s been a guest of the show. This dreamy chef has been on a host of cooking and talk shows. 

Heck, he was on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and "The Oprah Winfrey Show". That natural charm is underpinned by sheer artistry in the kitchen. He understands how to cool-down temperaments that flare up. 

Fans can catch the current season of MasterChef Australia on Vuzu (DStv channel 116) on Tuesdays at 7pm.