Sun. Jul 21st, 2024

Celebrated chef Jock Zonfrillo remembered in on-air tributes as MasterChef Australia returns

Celebrity chef Jock Zonfrillo’s has been remembered in an hour-long segment of on-air tributes ahead of the return of MasterChef Australia.

The popular reality cooking show was due to debut its 15th season on the Monday when the 46-year-old Zonfrillo was found dead in his Melbourne hotel room, by police doing a welfare check.

No cause of death was given, but police said there were no suspicious circumstances.

The debut episode of the latest season is airing on Sunday night following a one-hour tribute on The Project for the late judge from friends and colleagues celebrating his life.

Numerous chefs, food critics, and television stars shared their tributes throughout the program ending with with a fellow Scot Jimmy Barnes performing a rendition of The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond.

Chefs Maggie Beer, Curtis Stone, Jamie Oliver, Matt Moran and Shannon Bennett shared their memories of Zonfrillo. 

Even Gordon Ramsay, known for his hard temper, was brought to tears when sharing his memories.  

“He was never done as a chef. He still had years to go,” Ramsay said. 

Marco Pierre-White — who Zonfrillo credited his culinary start to — said when a then 17-year-old first approached him he saw great knowledge and enthusiasm. 

“But it was that enthusiasm which drove him. Maybe fuelled by his fears of failure, by his insecurities, which I could relate to,” Pierre-White said. 

He described Zonfrillo as “rare” and one of the greatest chefs of the 21st century.  

Common themes in the tribute included Zonfrillo’s ability to make a great coffee, his love for whisky and his willingness to speak to everyone. 

“Jock had time for everyone,” Stone said. 

“It doesn’t matter who it was, on a set or in his kitchen, he genuinely had a love of people. He would speak to the person that would make coffee on set the same way he’d speak to the director.”

The Scottish-born chef has been credited for having a major influence on Australia’s culinary landscape and remembered for his commitment to native Indigenous ingredients. 

Moran and Bennett both spoke of his love of learning and teaching in the kitchen. 

“The pursuit of perfection and knowledge, and being inquisitive is an endless road, Jock was very good at reminding people of that,” Bennett said. 

“I think Jock made a difference to anyone he connected with. If you ever needed to bounce anything off, Jock was the person,” Moran said. 

Zonfrillo was though perhaps best known for his role as host and judge of MasterChef, which he took on with Channel 10 from 2019.

‘Hard as nails but vulnerable’

Season four MasterChef winner and fellow judge Andy Allen was choked up while speaking about Zonfrillo and said the Scot had taught him it was OK to show emotion.

“He is that Scottish bloke, drinks whisky, you know, hard as nails,” Allen said. 

“But then he’s such a vulnerable person, and he really does just open up his emotions and there is no conversation too big or too small.”

Allen, who was close with Zonfrillo’s wife Lauren Fried, told the program the family had been overwhelmed with the amount of support they had received. 

“It’s been unreal to see how much support and where it’s come from and who it’s come from,” he said. 

Allen said before Zonfrillo passed he had a chance to watch the premiere episode of the new season of MasterChef, describing it as the best episode he had ever seen. 

“He is critical. So when he says it’s the best episode he’s ever seen, it’s the best episode he’s ever seen,” Allen said. 

Fellow judge Melissa Leong was not part of the tribute. Earlier this week she pulled out of a Q&A with American food writer Alison Roman at the Sydney Opera House, citing Zonfrillo’s passing for her cancellation.

Before MasterChef, Zonfrillo was a programming director of Tasting Australia — one of Australia’s largest food festivals — between 2016 and 2019.

He overcame a heroin addiction formed in his teenage years, and credited cooking as playing a key role in turning his life around.

He is survived by his wife Lauren and four children.


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By Chala Dandessa

I am Lecturer, Researcher and Freelancer. I am the founder and Editor at ETHIOPIANS TODAY website. If you have any comment use as email contact. Additionally you can contact us through the contact page of

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