Jock Zonfrillo has passed away at the age of 46, with his family releasing a statement confirming the tragic news, telling fans to 'keep this proud Scot in your hearts when you have your next whisky'.
“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," the devastated family said.
“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."
The Scottish chef was found dead at 2am Monday morning at an address on Melbourne’s famous Lygon Street, after police were called to perform a welfare check.
Before his untimely passing, Jock had well and truly won over the hearts of MasterChef fans all over the country, but life hadn't always been plain sailing for the Scottish chef.
At the age of 17, Jock was hooked on heroin, homeless and jobless, after being sacked from a Michelin star restaurant in England.
Fast-forward to 2023 and he had become one of the most well-known chefs in Australia, with a legion of fans fawning over his every word on the hit Channel 10 reality show.
Jock Zonfrillo’s controversial early years
A drug addict since the age of 15, Jock said he never wanted for anything as a child but he became embroiled in drugs as a teenager while hanging around with the wrong crowd in Scotland in the ‘80s.
After a foul-mouthed rant saw him fired from his job at the age of 17, Jock decided to head straight to the top, knocking on the door of celebrity chef Marco Pierre White’s restaurant at the Hyde Park Hotel in London.
Marco himself answered the door to a flabbergasted Jock, who asked him for a job there and then on the spot, with the award-winning chef taking a chance on the troubled teenager, giving him a shot in his kitchen.
With no money to his name, Jock used to leave work with the other staff, do a loop of Hyde Park and go back into the restaurant changing rooms and sleep there.
Marco soon discovered what was happening and instead of firing him, got him a bed in a youth hostel, lent him money and let him pay it back out of his wages. Jock told news.com.au that if it wasn’t for Marco, he’d be “in a pine box”.
“I'm not proud of it at all," he said of 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."
Jock’s move to Australia
Jock first visited Australia in 1994, landing a job at Chifley Tower’s Forty One restaurant before moving back to London a year later.
However a couple of years later he decided to head back Down Under.
On New Year’s Eve in 1999, Jock shot up his last dose of heroin before boarding a plane to Sydney.
“A lot of my friends from my early days are dead now or in jail,” he told the Financial Times in 2019.
“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.”
Jock’s career went from strength-to-strength in Australia. He worked at Penfolds Wines’ flagship Magill restaurant before opening up his own establishment, Restaurant Orana, in 2013 in Adelaide.
An Indigenous word from the Wiradjuri language meaning ‘welcome’, Orana showcasd Indigenous ingredients, with Jock writing on his website it showed ‘just how special the oldest surviving culture in the world is’.
It was named Australian Restaurant of the Year in, 2017, 2018 and 2019 and Jock won the highly prestigious Basque Culinary World Prize in 2018.
Jock was also the Founder of The Orana Foundation, a charity established in 2016 to preserve the rich food culture of the First Australians.
However, the award-winning restaurant shut its doors after being hit by Covid lockdowns, with Jock taking to Instagram at the time to write: “Like all of my hospo mates around the world, Covid closed our doors. For us, with our lease ending in a couple of months and the current restrictions meaning we can’t break even, our closure has become permanent. As we packed up our little restaurant back in March, with ex-staff coming in to help out the team, we had no idea how long this thing would last for, none of us thought it would mean the end.”
He made it clear that it wasn't the end of his cooking career, continuing: “My journey doesn’t stop here. I’ll continue trying to make a difference through food projects outside of the restaurant. And while these may be uncertain times they need to be a time of understanding, tolerance, and positivity for our industry and I’ll do whatever I can to help.”
Jock’s personal life
Along with his highs came the lows and Jock’s obsession with food had a huge impact on his personal life, leading to heartbreak.
"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 told the Adelaide Advertiser in 2014.
"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.''
In 2017, Jock married Lauren, with the pair welcoming a baby boy, Alfie, into the world a short time later and a daughter, Isla, in 2020.
Jock had two daughters from his two previous marriages and previously revealed that he was ‘utterly miserable’ during filming of MasterChef, as he was away from his loved ones.
Jock explained on WSFM 101.7 Jonesy & Amanda show that during the early stages of coronavirus they were unsure of how bad it was going to get and had no idea how it would affect Lauren’s pregnancy
They decided that it was best if Lauren went back to Adelaide with their two-year-old son and his 19-year-old daughter Ava, so they could isolate safely.
“It seemed like the safest thing to do but I was utterly miserable on my own for six weeks, it was awful,” Jock said.
Jock Zonfrillo dies at 46
Jock's family released a statement confirming the beloved chef and MasterChef judge had passed away on Sunday April 30th, just one day before the 2023 series of the show was due to air.
Channel 10 also released their own tribute to Jock in a statement, saying: “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.
“Jock was known to Australians as a chef, best-selling author, philanthropist and MasterChef judge but he will be best remembered as a loving father, husband, brother and son."
They confirmed the 2023 series of MasterChef has been postponed.
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