MasterChef Australia judge Jock Zonfrillo has died aged 46.
The award-winning chef’s sudden death was confirmed by his family, who shared a statement on Facebook. His cause of death was not given.
A Victoria Police spokesperson confirmed the death was not being treated as suspicious.
Zonfrillo’s family wrote: “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.
“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.”
The news came just hours before the 2023 season of MasterChef Australia had been due to air on Monday 1 May.
Channel 10 confirmed the show would now not be broadcast this week, writing on social media: “Network 10 and Endemol Shine Australia are deeply shocked and saddened at the sudden loss of Jock Zonfrillo, a beloved member of the MasterChef Australia family. Jock passed away in Melbourne yesterday. MasterChef Australia will not air this week.”
Sharing a selfie, taken with Zonfrillo and the rest of the MasterChef Australia team, British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver paid tribute on Instagram, writing: “I’m in total shock to wake up to the sudden death of chef Jock Zonfrillo”.
Oliver went on: “We had the best time working together for this year’s MasterChef, I can’t tell how good it was to work with him!
“Jock was very generous to me with his time and spirit in the show and for that I was really grateful… Melissa, Andy & Jock work as the most inspiring judges and mentors and each have their very own unique view and style… Jock will be so very missed… I can’t believe I’m writing this…
“Sending heart felt love and condolences to all of his family, friends and his second family the MasterChef team and contestants.”
Gordon Ramsay also paid tribute, writing on Twitter: “Saddened by the devastating news of Jock Zonfrillo’s passing. I truly enjoyed the time we spent together on MasterChef in Australia. Sending all my love to Lauren and the family in this difficult time”.
Born Barry Zonfrillo in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1976 to an Italian father and a Scottish mother, Zonfrillo’s passion for cooking saw him become one of the youngest students to take an apprenticeship at the five-star Turnberry Hotel, Ayrshire, aged just 15.
By 17, he was working under Michelin-starred chef Marco Pierre White at his eponymous Restaurant Macro Pierre White at the Hyde Park Hotel, in London.
He later established himself in Australia as the head chef at Restaurant 41 in Sydney in 2000, going on to open his own Restaurant Orana in 2013.
In 2019, he was named as a judge on MasterChef Australia, alongside food critic Melissa Leong and cook Andy Allen.
Zonfrillo had previously spoken publicly about overcoming drug addiction and homelessness in his youth.
His later career was not without controversy, fired from his head chef role in 2002 after setting fire to a teenage apprentice’s trousers as he was working too slowly, and later filing for bankruptcy in 2007.
Stories in his 2021 memoir, Last Shot, also led his former boss, Marco Pierre White to say: “Almost everything he has written about me is untrue”.
Zonfrillo said the book accurately represented his life story, responding to claims of embellishment by saying: “This is the story of my life. I’ve lived every minute of it, the highs and lows, and I stand by it.”
Responding to news of his death, production company Endemol Shine’s chief executive officer, Peter Newman, said of Zonfrillo: “On set he was loved by the team and his passion for food and the show was infectious.
“He was also a brilliant champion for the contestants on MasterChef, always wanting the very best for them. He will be deeply missed by the entire MasterChef team. Our thoughts are with his family at this sad time.”
Executive vice president of Network 10’s parent company Paramount ANZ, Beverley McGarvey, said in a statement: “This is a terribly sad day.
“Jock was an extraordinary man. He was a wonderful colleague and friend, and we feel very privileged to have had him play such an important and impactful role in MasterChef.
“Despite all his notable professional milestones, nothing brought him more joy or happiness than his family. Our thoughts are with them at this very difficult time.”
Former MasterChef contestants including Minoli De Silva, Laura Sharrad and Reynold Poernomo also paid tribute.
Zonfrillo leaves behind his third wife Lauren Fried and four children.