MasterChef judge Melissa Leong has shared a touching tribute to her good friend and co-star Jock Zonfrillo after his sudden death was announced on Monday. Season 15 was supposed to premiere the same day, but was postponed for at least one week by Channel 10.
Alongside an Instagram carousel of snaps with Jock, Melissa penned a statement about the impact Jock had on her life.
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.”
Her friends and followers flooded the post with comments, with Studio 10’s Narelda Jacobs writing, “The pain runs deep. Much love to you Melissa & the whole MasterChef family.”
“Been thinking of you, Mel. A beautiful tribute during heartbreaking loss. Thank you for sharing him with us,” added author and producer Benjamin Law.
“Beautiful words Mel, thinking of you,” added Season 12 MasterChef winner Emelia Jackson.
Channel 10's entertainment editor Angela Bishop shared on The Project last night that Andy and Melissa Leong were "devastated" by the shocking news their co-host had died.
"They would work, 14, 15, 16-hour days together for weeks on end to do each season of MasterChef, you couldn’t find closer workmates and confidants than Andy, Jock and Mel," she said.
"They are devastated, broken is the word that was used to me. They’re simply like so many of us trying to process this news."
Heartbreaking reason Jock Zonfrillo was alone before sudden death
This comes after more details surrounding Jock’s death emerged. Jock flew home from a family holiday in Italy in preparation for the launch of season 15 of MasterChef, however, he was sadly found dead at 2am at a hotel alone on Melbourne's Lygon Street on Monday.
The celebrity chef cut his holiday short to fly to Melbourne from Rome, leaving his wife, Lauren Fried, and their two children, Alfie, five, and Isla, two, in the Italian capital.
According to the Daily Telegraph, it's understood Jock and his family travelled to Europe after filming of the show finished about a month ago.
It's believed Lauren, Alfie and Isla will arrive in Melbourne from Italy today.
Jock is also the father to two adult children, Ava and Sophie, from his first two marriages, but they were not on the trip with him.
Channel 10 will not air MasterChef this week as originally planned.
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