MasterChef Australia returned to Aussie screens on Sunday night, after the season 15 premiere was delayed following the tragic news of Jock Zonfrillo’s death aged 46. The show was supposed to begin airing on Monday last week, but was postponed after the popular judge’s passing was announced that very same day.
The show was dedicated to the celebrity chef, with Ten announcing last week that his family ‘supported’ the decision to air the cooking show.
In the first episode, guest judge Jamie Oliver ended up revealing a personal secret after a contestant presented a dish that combined her Russian and Ukrainian heritage.
The amateur chefs were tasked with creating a “secret weapon dish”, to win a massive advantage that will come into play later in the season. Larissa Sewell, a South Australian mum, used family recipes from her babushka to create a hearty dish of borscht and pampushky.
“I’m just super-overwhelmed and so grateful to be here representing my culture,” she told the judges. “To be able to cook this for you, it means so much to me to feed you food that I grew up on, and food that my babushka loved on me with.”
Oliver was taken aback by the “delicious” dish, which prompted him to spill an unknown fact about his home life.
“With things going on in the world at the moment, it’s kind of profound that you’re here with a Russian and Ukrainian dish,” he said.
“Can I give you a little secret, that no one really knows? I’ve had two Ukrainian families living with me for the last seven months. I’ve had my fair share of borscht! And this is absolutely delicious.”
All the judges were in agreement that Larissa’s dish was spot on, with Melissa Leong adding: “This dish is just so beautifully complex, rich and layered and skilled. This is the exceptional food that we’re looking for.”
The contestant ended up walking away with a second-chance apron, which will save her from one elimination later in the competition.
MasterChef Australia’s tributes to Jock Zonfrillo
The episode was bookended with tributes to Jock, with a simple message appearing before the show began.
“It is with deep sadness that Network 10 and the MasterChef family acknowledge the sudden and tragic passing of judge Jock Zonfrillo. This season of MasterChef Australia was completed in March 2023 and we would like to dedicate it to Jock and his family.
“Please enjoy it as a celebration of his work, life and irrepressible passion for food,” it read.
The episode also finished with another touching tribute, with a photo of the chef appearing next to a statement: “For Jock Zonfrillo. Thank you for giving us all your wisdom, kindness and humour. We were lucky to have been around you, but for too brief a time. Love forever, the MasterChef family.”
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