Melissa Leong has addressed her silence following the death of her fellow MasterChef judge and friend, Jock Zonfrillo, saying it will be the "first and last time" she speaks about it.
The presenter and food critic paid tribute to Jock following his shock passing the same day the show's 15th season was set to premiere but reveals to Stellar's Something To Talk About podcast that she has been slammed for her decision not to speak about his death further.
"I’m known as being someone who is pretty open about showing emotion in my work and as a human being," she shared. "I’m not afraid of weighing in where I feel like I really am passionate about something. So I think there’s been quite a disconnect in terms of, well, why is she remaining quiet at a time like this?"
"I know a lot of people have been wondering that and so hopefully – for the first and last time – I can address it and we can move on from it."
Melissa continued, sharing that while we live in a time where we can "access almost every piece of information we want to know at a second's notice", she didn't want to share more of her own feelings "because it's not my story to tell".
"When someone leaves us, it affects so many people, whether or not it’s someone who has a public profile," she said. "When someone leaves your life, it affects a whole community of people, and each one of them is dealing with that loss in a different way.
"I feel like it isn’t constructive to continue to vocalise the way that I might feel, because it may impede someone else’s process. And so this is what makes sense to me … to approach this moment in my time with respect and to go gently with it."
Melissa also shared that she rarely speaks about personal matters – when the writer split with her husband, Joe Jones, in 2020, or when she seemingly split from her boyfriend Rob Mason, she never addressed it.
"It’s fairly obvious that I’ve chosen to keep that moment [Jock's death] relatively private and I think that that’s a really important thing for me," she said, adding that she knew when she accepted the role of judge on MasterChef, something she turned down twice, that she would need to be a little more private to respect her close relationships.
"What I’m generally happy to share are the broader themes in life, the lessons I’ve learnt that might be constructive to somebody or might make someone feel less alone in what they’re going through," she said. "That’s sort of the line for me: if it helps someone else, great. But still, all of us should reserve the right for keeping some things private. Privacy is at an all-time low, and I think we should value it more."
Melissa's tribute to Jock
A couple of days after Jock's death, Melissa penned a statement about the impact he had on her life, alongside several images of her friend and colleague.
Her heartbreaking note read: "Four years ago, the three of us stood on a precipice and jumped. I could never have guessed how much of an impact your arrival in my life would have, or that we would be saying goodbye to you so soon. You were always supposed to be the bulletproof one who outlived us all.
"In that time, you showed me what true excellence looks like both in the kitchen and outside of it; your kindness and generosity, the many lives you’ve lived, the way you carried far more on your shoulders than most could ever know.
"Thank you for challenging me daily, for making me better, my work buddy and friend, purveyor of excellent morning coffees, hater of pears, okra and nasturtiums. This all feels too raw to process still, I suspect it will for some time. Such is the impact of a life lived so large, with so much levity and entirely on your own terms."
Melissa finished with two short but powerful lines, saying: "My heart goes out to your family, who were and are your life. A wee dram for you today, and always."
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