The Real Reason Joe Bastianich Left MasterChef

Many television fans will remember chef and entrepreneur Joe Bastianich from his time on the U.S. version of MasterChef, as well as his stint on MasterChef Junior. Bastianich was a judge on the cooking competition from its debut in 2010, staying there for five seasons before he opted to leave (via Eater).

In a 2014 Facebook post, Bastianich made the announcement about his departure and gave fans a bit of an explanation for his decision. Namely, Bastianich was interested in putting his attention to some other culinary projects. "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," he wrote.

However, despite his often prickly personality on camera, his decision wasn't motivated by any bad blood or issues with the show itself (via E! News). In fact, he even commented in an interview with E! News that "I had a great experience. It was a show that changed my life."

But, if things were so great on set, why did Bastianich feel that he had to leave in the first place?

Bastianich put family first

Family has been a crucial factor in Bastianich's life and career ever since he was just a boy. His father, Felice Bastianich, and mother Lidia Bastianich, ran a restaurant in Queens when he was growing up, called Felidia (via Reuters). The MasterChef judge grew up seeing his parents striving to achieve their culinary dreams and, as he told Reuters, he and sister Tanya "were practically raised in restaurants."

His mother Lidia Bastianich went on to achieve success far beyond a mere restaurant, creating a culinary empire that included a popular PBS cooking show, cookbooks, and much more (via CNBC).

Family and food have been entwined in Joe Bastianich's life since his childhood, and it seems his own wife and children may have played into his decision to leave MasterChef. He told The TV Page that with his son beginning high school and his daughter attending college, the idea of having a bit more time with them was appealing as they approached those milestones in life.

Joe married wife Deanna in 1995, and the duo have three children together — Miles, Ethan, and Olivia Bastianich (via Married Biography).

His television adventures didn't end there

Even after his departure from the American version of the cooking competition, Bastianich wasn't quite willing to leave his place behind the judging booth. He became a judge on the MasterChef Italia, an Italian version of the reality television show. His time there certainly increased his recognition across Italy, although it wasn't all positive. Grub Street reported that a 2018 episode of MasterChef Italia showed Bastianich making some questionable comments while at a Milanese salon. Bastianich quickly apologized, explaining to Grub Street that the segment was scripted, but still commented, "I'm sorry I said those things."

He also opted to diversify in a role that didn't involve intimidating novice cooks by judging their dishes, but rather used his knowledge of the restaurant industry. He became one of the stars of Restaurant Startup, a reality television show where Bastianich joined chef and restaurateur Tim Love. That show likewise involved competition, but rather than home cooks competing against one another, teams vied for the attention of Bastianich or Love as investors in their restaurant dreams (via Connecticut Mag). That show didn't quite have the same enduring popularity as the MasterChef franchise and was only on the air for three seasons, according to IMDb.

His television pursuits weren't limited to the culinary world, however. Bastianich was also one of the presenters on the one and only season of Top Gear Italia (via IMDb).

Rough seas and a homecoming for Bastianich

The company he cited as a reason for leaving MasterChef, Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, also came under fire after his departure. Eater reported that there was a toxic "boys' club" culture condemned by dozens of employees at several of the restaurants. Though partner Mario Batali was at the center of many of the allegations, Bastianich, along with his partner and mother Lidia Bastianich and chef Nancy Silverton, announced that major changes would be made at the company as a result of the controversy (via Eater).

With so much drama in his post-MasterChef USA projects, perhaps Bastianich longed for a return to something familiar. In 2017, he returned as a MasterChef Junior judge (via Variety), reuniting with fellow chef and host Gordon Ramsay

While the initial trio involved Bastianich, Ramsay, and chef Graham Elliot, in the years since Bastianich's departure, there were a few shake-ups to the MasterChef USA judging line-up. Bastianich was initially replaced by Milk Bar chef Christina Tosi (via People). Elliot made the decision to leave the show after season six, and after a season of guest judges filling that third spot, chef Aarón Sánchez came aboard for season eight (via Parade). Now, the judging trio consists of Ramsay, Sánchez and Bastianich, all bringing their unique perspectives and culinary backgrounds to the show.

Bastianich also continues to grow his culinary empire and, with his partners, is at the helm of numerous restaurants around the world (via Joe Bastianich).