Jock Zonfrillo, the MasterChef Australia judge and award-winning Scottish chef, has died unexpectedly aged 46.
His family confirmed he passed yesterday in a statement: “With completely shattered hearts and without knowing how we can possibly move through life without him, we are devastated to share that Jock passed away yesterday.
“So many words can describe him, so many stories can be told, but at this time we’re too overwhelmed to put them into words. For those who crossed his path, became his mate, or were lucky enough to be in his family, keep this proud Scot in your hearts when you next have a whisky.”
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A new season of MasterChef Australia was due to air this week, but has been postponed.
In a statement, Network 10 and Endemol Shine Australia said: “Network 10 and Endemol Shine Australia are deeply shocked and saddened at the sudden loss of Jock Zonfrillo, a beloved member of the MasterChef Australia family. Jock passed away in Melbourne yesterday. MasterChef Australia will not air this week.”
Zonfrillo joined the MasterChef team as a judge alongside former winner and chef Andy Allen and food critic Melissa Long in 2019 after the exits of Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston. While some were concerned the changes would impact ratings, the show has continued to be one of Australia’s top performing reality competitions and sells internationally.
The restauranteur was born in Glasgow, Scotland, as Barry Zonfrillo. By 15, he had an apprenticeship in the kitchens of The Tunberry Hotel before working under Marco-Pierre White. He was named head chef at The Tresanston aged 22 in the UK before moving to lead the kitchen at Restaurant 41 in Sydney, Australia, where has previously spent a year working. He opened two restaurants of his own in 2013, one of which, Orana, was named Australia’s Restaurant of the Year by two publications, in 2018 and 2019. Zonfrillo was named Hottest Chef in Australia in 2018 by The Australian newspaper.
Despite his success, Zonfrillo was forced to put both of his restaurants, Orana and Bistro Blackwood, into administration over unpaid debts. In 2002, he deliberately set fire to an apprentice chef, Martin Krammer, who had been worked slowly. He claimed it was a practical joke that went wrong but a judge awarded damages of A$75,000 ($50,000). Zonfrillo declared bankruptcy in 2007 after Krammer issued a creditors’ petition.
He released a memoir, Last Shot in 2021. Former mentor White claimed “almost everything” Zonfrillo had written about him was “untrue,” but Zonfrillo defended the chapters, saying, “This is the story of my life.”
Zonfrillo is survived by wife Lauren Fried and four children.
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