Jock Zonfrillo dead: MasterChef judge’s family, children and past drug use

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Late MasterChef judge Jock Zonfrillo arrived on Australian shores in 2000 and immediately set about making the most of his clean slate.

Back in the UK, as he later revealed in interviews, he had battled with a crippling addiction to heroin which had taken hold of his life by the time he was 15.

At 17 he was working at a one Michelin star restaurant in Chester, in England’s north-west, while continuing to abuse heroin — and was sacked after a foul-mouthed outburst.

Refusing to give up, he fronted up to celebrated chef Marco Pierre White’s restaurant and asked for a job, which despite a horrific reference, he was given.

Zonfrillo’s addiction however continued and, before being found out by a co-worker, he was sleeping in the restaurant’s change rooms between working 18-hour days.

Jock Zonfrillo with Melissa Leong and Andy Allen.Jock Zonfrillo with Melissa Leong and Andy Allen.

With the help of White, who in his autobiography Last Shot he referred to as a “father figure” who “saved my life”, he found suitable accommodation.

Zonfrillo continued to use drugs during his time under White, and the famous chef was well aware of what he was up to.

“Back in those days, if you had any kind of drug addition or anything like that, you were cast off,” Zonfrillo told in 2020.

“Marco was aware of my situation and the battles that I had personally, but he had the ability to put that to the side and take you at face value as a chef and I couldn’t be more thankful for that.”

Zonfrillo continued using drugs until he landed a job as head chef at Restaurant 41 in Sydney, he said.

“New Year’s Eve when I flew to Australia, it was a clean start for me,” he said, getting emotional.

“I thought, ‘I’m emigrating to Australia. I will land in Australia in the year 2000 and it will be a clean sheet,’ and that was it.”

Chef Jamie Oliver has paid tribute to Zonfrillo on Instagram.Chef Jamie Oliver has paid tribute to Zonfrillo on Instagram.

After a nine-year struggle, Zonfrillo stopped using.

“I’m not proud of it at all,” he said about his drug use. “It’s embarrassing and it’s embarrassing for my parents. But I’m thankful to have been able to come through the other side of that and I’m thankful for all the people who helped me at the right moments.”

He was particularly thankful to White, with Zonfrillo saying that if it weren’t for him, he’d be “in a pine box or behind bars”.

Zonfrillo went on to open Restaurant Orana in Adelaide and was named Australia’s Hottest Chef by The Australian in 2018. That year he also won the prestigious Basque Culinary World Prize.

Jock and Lauren on their wedding day in 2017. Picture: InstagramJock and Lauren on their wedding day in 2017. Picture: Instagram

Already a star in the world of hospitality, Zonfrillo became one of Australia’s favourite TV personalities with viewers swooning over him in MasterChef.

He joined the Channel 10 program in 2019 for the 2020 season alongside Melissa Leong and Andy Allen, but died the day before the scheduled return for its 2023 season.

The series has been pulled from broadcast for this week.

MasterChef Australia judges Andy Allen, Jock Zonfrillo and Melissa Leong during filming in Tasmania's Derwent Valley.MasterChef Australia judges Andy Allen, Jock Zonfrillo and Melissa Leong during filming in Tasmania’s Derwent Valley.

Zonfrillo has also spoken candidly in 2021 about his struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety and addiction.

“I never thought I would have anxiety, let alone admit to it. It’s a real working class problem to arrive somewhere and think that you’re not good enough.

“For me, I’ve done that my entire life. Every job I’ve got, I’ve felt like I wasn’t good enough to be there.”

He revealed carrying a set of worry beads with him at all times had helped him cope.

“When I’m nervous or anxious, my brain would just start racing, like I’m thinking irrationally, so by using the worry beads, it calms that noise in my brain,” he said.

“On MasterChef, I’ve got different colours for different suits that I wear. So it’s not a flashing beacon that says ‘I have a problem’ or ‘I have anxiety’.”

Family shattered by loss

At the news of his death Zonfrillo’s family said: “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 his family, keep this proud Scot in your hearts when you have your next whisky.

Jock Zonfrillo in full chef whites aged 15 in 1992. Picture: SuppliedJock Zonfrillo in full chef whites aged 15 in 1992. Picture: Supplied

“We implore you to please let us grieve privately as we find a way to navigate through this and find space on the other side to celebrate our irreplaceable husband, father, brother, son and friend.”

Zonfrillo moved to Australia with his first wife in 2020. The pair divorced in 2007.

In a 2014 interview reflecting on his time in hospitality, he credited the gruelling lifestyle that came with his career and being a workaholic for destroying his first two marriages.

“Two divorces, a handful of friends because you don’t have the time to spend with them, so therefore you can count your close friends on one hand, and a deep mistrust of most people,” he said.

“That’s what you’re left with at the end of the day. Is it really that glamorous after all? I don’t think so.”

He married his third wife Lauren Fried in 2017 and had two children, Alfie and Isla together. Zonfrillo also has two daughters, Ava and Sophia, from his first two marriages.

More Coverage

Jamie Oliver’s sad post after TV chef’s deathMasterChef judge Jock Zonfrillo dead at 46

He died in Melbourne yesterday. A statement from Victoria Police said officers attended a Lygon Street address for a welfare check, where they found a deceased man at approximately 2am. The police said the death was not being treated as suspicious.

No cause of death has been released.

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