News of the sudden death of celebrated chef and Masterchef Australia judge Jock Zonfrillo has come as a rude shock to everyone. On Monday, 1 May, Jock's family shared a statement on his Instagram handle, confirming the news. Zonfrillo passed away a day before the new season of Masterchef Australia was scheduled to be aired. However, Network10 confirmed that owing to the tragedy it will not air this week.
Zonfrillo is survived by his third wife, Lauren Fried, and four children.
Zonfrillo's Early Life
Born Barry Zonfrillo in Glasgow in 1976, Jock started working in kitchens as a dishwasher when he was 13. He dropped out of school at 15 and started working as an apprentice at the Turnberry hotel, becoming one of its youngest-ever apprentices. At 17, Jock began working for celebrated British chef Marco Pierre White. He wrote in his 2021 memoir, 'Last Shot', that he was homeless and addicted to heroin at that time. He was appointed head chef at Cornwall’s Tresanton hotel when he was just 22.
Zonfrillo's Rise as One of the World's Best Chefs
After moving to Australia in 2000, Zonfrillo became head chef at Sydney’s Forty One in, but was fired in 2002.
He then opened Bistro Blackwood and Restaurant Orana in Adelaide.The restaurants earned him a number of accolades and global recognition, including the prestigious Basque Culinary World Prize in 2018, for his skills. Orana was also named Australia’s restaurant of the year by Gourmet Traveller magazine in 2018. It was awarded three hats in 2019 and 2020, but shut its doors in March 2020.
In 2019, he joined the team of MasterChef Australia as a judge, wherein he coached the participants.
Setting Up Orana Foundation
In 2016, Zonfrillo started The Orana Foundation, in a bid to preserve historical cooking techniques and ingredients of the Indigenous Australians. The Orana Foundation was awarded The Good Food Guide Food for Good Award in October 2017.
Zonfrillo was fired from Forty One after he allegedly set fire to one of his apprentice's trousers for "working too slowly." Zonfrillo said it was a practical joke gone wrong. Shortly after, the 18-year-old apprentice sued Zonfrillo and won $75,000 in damages in 2007. The same year, the chef declared bankruptcy.
Some of the stories written in his memoir were also disputed. Marco Pierre White had said that "almost everything he has written about me is untrue." Zonfrillo’s claim that he had visited “hundreds of Indigenous communities” was also questioned. However, he had denied all allegations, saying, "“This is the story of my life. I’ve lived every minute of it, the highs and lows, and I stand by it.”
“There’s no question that some of my book makes me look pretty unsavoury at the best of times. I carry the shame from those years, not pride, and it was a big obstacle for me to overcome when writing this book.”