Masterchef star Ben Ungermann has been charged with two sex offences allegedly committed while he was in Melbourne filming the show – and just two days before his return to the show was publicly announced.
Fans first noticed Ungermann, 33, had disappeared from MasterChef: Back to Win when he didn’t appear on the Thursday night’s episode with U.S. singer Katy Perry.
It was only on Sunday’s episode that Scottish-born restaurateur Jock Zonfrillo announced for the first time that Ungermann had left the competition for a ‘personal matter’ and would not be returning.
However, Daily Mail Australia can now reveal the 33-year old was charged by Victorian sexual crime squad detectives on March 6 with two counts of sexual assault following an alleged incident on February 23 when the show was being filmed in Melbourne.
Ben Ungermann faces multiple sex assault charges in Melbourne after he was arrested in Docklands in February
Ben Ungermann is currently working in Queensland and is expected to eventutally have to return to Melbourne to face the music
Ungermann was arrested in the Docklands, on Melbourne’s city fringe, by detectives from the Melbourne Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team.
Masterchef’s descent into alleged criminal
2017: The fan favourite was pipped to the post by contestant Diana Chan in the finale of Masterchef
February 17, 2020: Brags about spending time in Melbourne with a reality star
February 23: Allegedly commits two sexual assaults in the Docklands
February 25: Appears in newspapers confirming his appearance on the latest Masterchef
March 1: Spends the day with his children
March 6: Is charged by Victoria Police with two counts of sexual assault
March 19: Appears to announce his engagement on social media
March 24: Allegations of his arrest appear in news reports across the country
April 17: Takes to Instagram to address a fan about how he would be cut from the show
May 17: Masterchef hosts address his disappearance, but reveal little about why
He is listed to appear before the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on June 25.
Victoria Police confirmed Ungermann’s arrest on Tuesday but refused to comment on the circumstances.
‘The arrest follows an investigation into an alleged sexual assault in Docklands on 23 February. A 33-year-old Queensland man has been charged with two counts sexual assault,’ the statement says.
Despite the charges, Ungermann appeared confident he could continue on the show.
Just two days after his arrest, believed to be inside a Docklands hotel, his face was splashed across newspapers under the headline: ‘Ungermann back for fresh serve of Masterchef’ announcing he was re-appearing on the show.
On February 17 – six days before his arrest – Ungermann bragged on social media that he was hanging in Melbourne with a reality star.
On March 19, two weeks after the sex assault charges, he posted what was believed to be an engagement announcement.
The revelations end months of speculation among Masterchef fans, who have been left in the dark by the show’s producers as to why he left the show.
The Masterchef star is unlikely to be compelled to travel from Queensland, where he is now employed as a chef at a country retreat, to Melbourne for the first appearance of his court hearing for the charges.
Ungermann is now working at Tommy Smith Cafe at Woodlands of Marburg where he has already created a special Indonesian menu for the venue.
The heritage-listed resort recently shared a photo of Ungermann standing outside the front of the building, alongside the caption: ‘Woodlands of Marburg is proud to introduce new Gourmet Chef Ben Ungermann to the Woodlands family.
‘Many new exciting adventures ahead.’
Ben Ungermann was quietly removed from the latest season of MasterChef.
News of Ben Ungermann’s arrest surfaced on March 24, prompting a spokesperson for Endemol Shine to issue a statement. ‘We can confirm Ben Ungermann has left the MasterChef Australia competition. As this is a police matter, we will not be making further comment,’ they said
Life and times of Ben Ungermann
The 2017 Masterchef runner up was born and raised in Ipswich, in Brisbane’s southern suburbs, and taught to cook by his grandmother, Els Nederveen.
During that season’s finale, the fan favourite was pipped to the post by contestant Diana Chan, whose meals scored just one judge’s point more than Ungermann’s, at 90 to 89.
The runaway success of the Australian cooking show franchise gave the TV chef a profile overseas, with Ungermann boasting of ‘living on the road’ for most of the year.
He told Men’s Health splits his time between Bali, India, Japan, Australia and South Africa – where he maintained a long-distance relationship with Leigh-Anne Williams, a local TV star and radio personality.
Since the first Masterchef program, Ungermann has lent his name to an icecream parlour at home in Queensland, the Ungermann Brothers, which he runs with older brother Danny and his mother Emerence.
As his disappearance from Masterchef: Back to Win baffled viewers, Ungermann was last week appointed as the celebrity head chef of the Sugarmill Restaurant at the Woodlands of Marburg, a premier country retreat located between Ipswich and Toowoomba.
But it did not go unnoticed he has switched the comments to ‘off’ on his popular Instagram page.
The contestants looked shocked, but the episode moved on with no further mention of the issue.
The move confirmed fan suspicions he was about to be cut out of the show after he was noticeably absent from the anticipated Katy Perry special on Thursday.
The chef has yet to make a public comment what led to his arrest, but he replied to a fan comment on his Instagram account, after they expressed how ‘devastated’ they were at his departure.
‘How do they edit you out?’ the fan queried.
‘That’s up to MasterChef Australia. Appreciate the support,’ Ungermann replied.
On Sunday, Ungermann’s co-star Hayden Quinn revealed what was going through the contestants’ minds as they processed the news of his departure.
He told HuffPost Australia that Zonfrillo’s statement was the first and only time the matter was formally discussed on set – and the remaining chefs were completely blindsided.
‘It was a real shock for us because we had no idea, obviously,’ said the 34-year-old cookbook author.
‘We turned up and Ben wasn’t there and there was a bit of confusion, and then we heard exactly what you heard on TV last night and that’s pretty much it, that he’s not coming in.
‘I don’t really know much more than that, to be honest.’
He also explained why the contestants hadn’t got wind of the alleged sex offender’s departure before it was addressed by in the gantry.
‘It’s different this season because we don’t all live in the one big house like [before]. We’ve got our own apartments we share with one other person. It’s private,’ he told Now To Love.
‘So there could be times when you don’t see anyone for a number of days. You might only see someone in the kitchen.
‘Basically we turned up and Ben wasn’t there and Jock said what he said. That was it. I haven’t seen or heard from Ben since, so I know as much as you.’
MasterChef producers reportedly held crisis talks that month following the incident.
Executives called the show’s editors into an ’emergency meeting’ and told them to ‘cut him out the best you can’, according to New Idea.
The incident apparently came as a shock to network bosses, with a source saying: ‘No one could have imagined something like that would ever happen.’
News of Ungermann’s arrest surfaced on March 24, prompting a spokesperson for Endemol Shine to issue a brief statement to the media.
‘We can confirm Ben Ungermann has left the MasterChef Australia competition. As this is a police matter, we will not be making further comment.’
Daily Mail Australia approached Ungermann and his manager for comment.
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Edited out: It comes after MasterChef producers reportedly held crisis talks in March following Ben’s arrest over a personal matter during filming. Executives called the show’s editors into an ’emergency meeting’ and told them to ‘cut him out the best you can’
Ben Ungermann was a fan favourite. He now faces allegations he is a sex offender
New position: Ben Ungermann (centre) is now employed as a gourmet chef at the Tommy Smith Cafe at Woodlands of Marburg, where he has created a special Indonesian menu
Timeline: Viewers had concluded on Thursday that Ben Ungermann’s arrest must have happened right before Katy Perry (centre right) filmed her guest appearance in March. Pictured with judges Andy Allen (left), Melissa Leong (centre left) and Jock Zonfrillo (right)
Gone! On Sunday’s episode of MasterChef, Scottish-born restaurateur Jock Zonfrillo (pictured) announced to the group that Ben Ungermann had left the competition
Silence: The contestants looked shocked, but the episode moved on with no further mention of the issue