May 1, 2023 -BBC News –Award-winning chef and MasterChef Australia host Jock Zonfrillo has died suddenly, aged 46.
The Scotsman worked in renowned restaurants around the world before opening his own in Australia.
His death was confirmed by broadcaster Network 10 on the day the 2023 season premiere of MasterChef was set to air.
Zonfrillo is survived by his wife Lauren Fried and four children, who said in a statement their hearts were “shattered”.
“For those who crossed his path, became his mate, or were lucky enough to be his family, keep this proud Scot in your hearts when you have your next whisky,” the family said.
Zonfrillo was found dead at a house in Melbourne when police conducted a welfare check in the early hours of Monday morning. Victoria Police said the death is not being treated as suspicious.
His death has sparked an outpouring of grief from figures in the culinary and entertainment world.
Celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay, as well as a host of former Masterchef contestants led the tributes.
Oliver, who had been due to appear in the season opener posted a picture to Instagram of him with Zonfrillo and the two other judges, Melissa Leong and Andy Allen, on set.
“I’m in total shock to wake up to the sudden death of [Jock].. we had the best time working together for this year’s MasterChef,” he wrote.
Ramsay wrote on Twitter: “Saddened by the devastating news… I truly enjoyed the time we spent together on MasterChef in Australia”.
Network 10 also paid tribute to the star, saying Zonfrillo’s charisma, passion and wicked sense of humour had inspired a nation of home cooks. MasterChef – which is pre-recorded – will not air this week as planned, it said.
Born in Glasgow in 1976, Zonfrillo began working in kitchens at 12. At 15, he became one of the youngest-ever apprentices to work at luxury Scottish resort, The Turnberry Hotel.
Two years later he started working for Michelin-starred British chef Marco Pierre White at his famous Hyde Park Hotel.
But despite his burgeoning career, Zonfrillo said he became broke, homeless and addicted to heroin in his teenage years. He wrote at length about his struggles with drug addiction in his 2021 memoir, Last Shot.
He said he turned a new leaf with a move to Australia in 2000, and went on to open several restaurants. His most successful was Adelaide’s award-winning Restaurant Orana, which opened in 2013.
In 2019, the presenter was announced as part of an all new host line-up for MasterChef Australia.
But Zonfrillo’s career was not without controversy. Orana closed in 2020 with debts of millions of dollars, and Last Shot was criticised as inaccurate by former colleagues, including Marco Pierre White.