Restaurateur/TV foodperson Joe Bastianich will soon leave his most high-profile gig: Variety reports Bastianich will leave the MasterChef franchise, a culinary competition that searches for America's best "amateur chef," after the end of next season's MasterChef Junior spin-off. Bastianich had been a judge on the show, alongside chefs Gordon Ramsay and Graham Elliot, since its debut in 2010. In a statement sent to Deadline, MasterChef producers thanked Bastianich for his service: "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."
MasterChef has aired five seasons on the FOX network, while the second season of MasterChef Junior, featuring home cooks all under the age of 13, is currently airing on FOX. The third season of the Junior spinoff will begin in January 2015, and that will be Bastianich's final installment of the franchise (although Variety notes he will remain a judge on Italy's MasterChef Italia). In recent months, Bastianich has made other forays into reality food television, acting as a host/mentor on CNBC's Restaurant Startup, which was recently renewed for a second season. Producers are currently seeking a placement for future seasons of MasterChef.