Late celebrity chef Jock Zonfrillo has been remembered by The Project panel after his shock death at the age of 46.
Zonfrillo had been scheduled to appear on The Project on Monday night just before the premiere of the 2023 series of MasterChef. Ten has taken MasterChef off this week out of respect for the show’s judge.
Host Sarah Harris was quick to point out how the death of Zonfrillo, who police found dead in Melbourne early on Monday morning after attending a welfare check, was a loss for his family and the nation.
“It’s so hard to even kind of process it just yet because the news came through so late this afternoon,” she said on the show.
Channel 10 released a statement confirming his death. Source: Channel 10Sarah Harris fondly remembered when Mr Zonfrillo would visit the Studio 10 set. Photo: 10
“And as you said, the promos for MasterChef have been on air for weeks and everyone’s looking forward to this wonderful new season, but it’s more than that, I mean, this is a bloke who had four kids, young children as well, the youngest was two.”
The panel went on to talk about how Zonfrillo was a unique individual within the media landscape.
“I remember on the many times that have popped into Studio 10 when I was hosting that show in the mornings,” an emotional Harris said.
“He was always so affable with the crew and would take time to talk to everyone he would always kind of get you get you to the side and show you pictures of his kids because he was just so immensely proud of them.
“And of his beautiful wife Lauren, he would say that she saved him in so many ways.
Waleed Aly said Mr Zonfrillo was a genuinely kind man. Photo: 10
“He was never without his worry beads because – I love this about him – despite the fact that he was this kind of manly Scottish and drank whiskey that he was he knew that there was power in vulnerability and he really works to normalise anxiety.”
Waleed Aly then weighed in about Zonfrillo’s impact.
“In this industry, it’s fair to say that not everyone is gentle, it’s not a personality that tends to be an advantage,” he said.
“The thing that really stood out to me was that there’s just something about his vulnerability, but it’s something a bit deeper than that, and he’s a guy who’s been through so much.”
Jamie Oliver was one of hundreds of people who paid tribute to the late chef.
Zonfrillo’s journey from addiction was also discussed with Ms Harris praising “how he brought himself back from the brink of addiction to build an incredible life for himself”.
A close friend of Zonfrillo has spoken about the pure “shock” over his death at age 46.
Celebrity pastry chef Darren Purchese spoke about how precious Zonfrillo was to him.
“He’s had some tough times in his life and I’ve had a few tough times and he was always someone that I could call and anytime day or night he would pick up and I valued his friendship because he would support me 100 per cent,” he said.
“He’s done that to lots of other people out there as well.”
Mr Purchese went on to say that Zonfrillo would text or call him “out of the blue” to ensure he was doing well.
He also spoke about how the pair connected due to Zonfrillo‘s openness about his mental health issues.
He is survived by his wife and four children.
“I felt that I could talk to him about absolutely any subject and although he was a big Scottish masculine guy, I could talk to him about stuff that really mattered,” he said.
“And that’s how I remember his friendship.”
Entertainment editor Angela Bishop confirmed that Zonfrillo had been in Italy with his family before his death, and had only returned to Australia to “fulfil publicity commitments” for MasterChef’s new season.
Ms Bishop revealed how Zonfrillo‘s co-hosts Melissa Leong and Andy Allen reacted to the news.
“They would work, 14, 15, 16-hour days together for weeks on end to do each season of MasterChef, you couldn’t find closer workmates and confidants than Andy, Jock and Mel,” she said.
“They are devastated, broken is the word that was used to me.
“They’re simply like so many of us trying to process this news.”