MasterChef Australia judge Jock Zonfrillo has died aged 46, his family has confirmed. His body was found at about 2 am on Monday after police were called to a hotel on Lygon Street in Carlton, Melbourne, for a welfare check. Police say they are not treating his death as suspicious although they didn't give the cause of death.
A report will be prepared for the coroner. Zonfrillo is survived by his third wife, Lauren Fried, and his four children, Alfie, 6, and Isla, 2, along with his teenage daughters Ava and Sophia from his first two marriages. Hours before his death, Zonfrillo posted a photo promoting the brand-new season of the Channel 10 show.
Zonfrillo's death came as a shock to millions of his fans, more so because his body was found not at his home but in a Melbourne hotel. However, police said they are not suspecting foul play as of now.
"Police attended a Lygon Street address for a welfare check and located a man deceased about 2am on May 1," police told DailyMail.com.
"The 46-year-old man's death is not being treated as suspicious."
The Scottish-Australian chef and restaurateur shot to stardom after joining Andy Allen and Melissa Leong as hosts of the popular Channel 10 cookery show in 2019.
His death comes just before the Monday night premiere of MasterChef's fifteenth season on Channel 10, which will have Jamie Oliver as a special guest judge. However, the show won't be broadcast this week due to Zonfrillo's sudden and unexpected death.
"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," his family said in a statement on Monday.
"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."
The statement continued: "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."
British chef Jamie Oliver, who recently finished filming with Zonfrillo and is appearing as a guest judge on MasterChef this year, expressed his shock over the passing of his friend.
"I'm in total shock to wake up to the sudden death of chef Jock Zonfrillo. We had the best time working together for this year's MasterChef. I can't tell how good it was to work with him," he wrote on Instagram.
"Jock was very generous to me with his time and spirit in the show and for that I was really grateful.
"Melissa, Andy and Jock work as the most inspiring judges and mentors and each has their very own unique view and style. Jock will be so very missed."
Leaving Everyone Shocked
It appeared that Zonfrillo's colleagues on MasterChef were unaware of his death earlier this morning as the publicity machine for the new season was in motion till 11:30 am when Leong uploaded a countdown clock for the season premiere on her Instagram account.
Leong, 41, even spoke to Hit WA Breakfast on Monday at around 8 am, in which she discussed the pair's close friendship. She made a radio appearance to promote the upcoming MasterChef season.
Zonfrillo, one of Australia's most renowned chefs, reportedly overcame a heroin addiction during his teenage years in Glasgow before beginning his career working for Michelin-starred chef Marco Pierre White in the UK.
He also once said during an interview that he owed his life to food. "It saved my life. A lot of my friends from my early days are dead now or in jail," he had said.
"The thing about being a junkie is that the only way you can get out is if there's something in your life more compelling than drugs. And for me, I had another addiction: to food and to cooking. That's what moved me on. That's how I survived."
Zonfrillo has also spoken frankly about his battle with anxiety. "I never thought I would have anxiety, let alone admit to it," he said.
"It's a real working class problem to arrive somewhere and think that you're not good enough," he confessed.
"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."
Zonfrillo immigrated to Australia and took the position of head chef at Sydney's Restaurant 41 after being sober and establishing himself in Britain. That was in 2000.
In 2013, he founded Adelaide's acclaimed Restaurant Orana. The Australian newspaper dubbed him Australia's Hottest Chef in 2018, the year before he joined MasterChef.
The Good Food Guide also rated Orana Australia's top restaurant in that same year.
Restaurant Orana pulled down its shutters in 2020 after entering voluntary administration with debts of $3.2 million.