MasterChef contestant responds to sexual assault allegations
MasterChef contestant Ben Ungermann's swift departure from the popular cooking show came in the same month he was charged over a sexual assault.
Victoria Police has confirmed detectives from the Melbourne Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team charged Mr Ungermann, 33, with two counts of sexual assault on March 6.
"The arrest follows an investigation into an alleged sexual assault in Docklands on 23 February," a police statement said.
The Queensland-based chef was bailed to appear at the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on June 25.
The alleged offending is understood to have taken place while Mr Ungermann was in Melbourne filming the latest season of MasterChef.
On Tuesday night Mr Ungermann broke his silence on the allegations in a social media post, sharing a tweet from his lawyer.
"I act for Ben Ungermann," Adam Houda said on Twitter. "Allegations against my client are vehemently denied and will be defended."
Mr Houda later said: "My client is very distressed by the charges levelled against him. I am instructed that the allegations are a complete fabrication and are strenuously denied."
The runner-up in season nine was confirmed to have left the show in March after a police matter of "personal nature".
Fans had been left guessing why Mr Ungermann was no longer on the show, especially when he failed to appear on last week's Immunity Challenge episode featuring Katy Perry.
But details have emerged this week of the allegations against him.
It comes after celebrity chef and TV judge Jock Zonfrillo finally addressed the elephant in the room when opening the show on Sunday night.
"Before we get to today's challenge, we've got some news. You're probably wondering where Ben is," Mr Zonfrillo said.
"Due to a personal matter, Ben has had to leave the competition and he will not be returning."
Mr Ungermann has not made any public statement about the charges or his departure from the show.
Mr Ungermann's long-time manager and friend, who is known only as Shadz, refused to comment.
Network Ten and production company Endemol Shine also declined to comment.
Mr Ungermann last month said on social media: "Don't believe everything you read guys." and thanked people for their support.
He is now working at Tommy Smith Cafe at Woodlands of Marburg in Queensland, where he has created a special Indonesian menu for the venue.
The heritage-listed resort recently shared a photo of Mr 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."
Other MasterChef contestants have been left in the dark by Mr Ungermann's departure.
Eliminated chef Hayden Quinn told the Herald Sun there was little time to digest the news after his absence was briefly acknowledged on Sunday night.
"It's a personal issue and no one still knows what happened,'' Quinn said.
"A quick statement from Jock and once that was out, basically because it was an elimination we had to get on with it.
"I have no clear idea of what's going on with Benny boy but that's something he's got to deal with, I guess."
Originally published as MasterChef contestant charged with sexual assault