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The Project’s Sarah Harris breaks down during emotional Jock Zonfrillo tribute

Jock Zonfrillo was scheduled to appear on Monday's episode of The Project.

Sarah Harris was close to tears on Monday night’s episode of The Project as the panellists paid tribute to celebrity chef Jock Zonfrillo. The Scottish-born TV personality, who died aged 46 on Sunday, was supposed to appear on the show to promote season 15 of MasterChef.

Sarah shared some touching stories about Jock’s behind-the-scenes persona, and admitted that it was ‘hard to process his death’.

The Project host Sarah Harris broke down during her tribute to Jock Zonfrillo. Photo: Ten
The Project host Sarah Harris broke down during her tribute to Jock Zonfrillo. Photo: Ten

“This is a bloke who had four kids, young children as well,” she said sadly. “I remember on the many times he popped into Studio 10 when I was hosting that show in the mornings, he was always so affable with the crew, and would take time to talk to everyone.

“He would always get you to the side and show you pictures of his kids, because he was just so immensely proud of him and of his beautiful wife, Lauren. He was never without his worry beads,” she added.

Sarah pointed out that Jock was so ‘vulnerable’ and open about suffering from anxiety, something that was so unusual for a man in the public eye.

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“I love this about him. Despite the fact that he was this kind of manly Scot, and drank whisky, he knew that there was power in vulnerability, and he really worked to normalise anxiety, and he said he would keep those beads on him at all times, and really pressed the beads when the anxiety got too much,” she said.

Her co-host Waleed Aly agreed, and told viewers that the “scale of the loss is hard to express”. He fondly remembered Jock as a “gentle soul”, which can be unusual in the media industry.

“In this industry, it’s fair to say that not everyone is gentle, it’s not a personality that tends to be an advantage.

“There is a time that he was here in this chair, and that was the thing that really stood out to me, there was just something about him. Vulnerable is the right word, but it is something a bit deeper than that, and he is a guy who has been through much,” he said.

Jock’s journey from addiction was also discussed with Sarah praising “how he brought himself back from the brink of addiction to build an incredible life for himself”.

Waleed Aly also shared a touching tribute to the MasterChef star. Photo: Ten
Waleed Aly also shared a touching tribute to the MasterChef star. Photo: Ten

Darren Purchase’s tribute

Celebrity pastry chef Darren Purchese also appeared on the show to speak about how precious Jock was to him.

“He’s had some tough times in his life and I’ve had a few tough times and he was always someone that I could call and anytime day or night he would pick up and I valued his friendship because he would support me 100 per cent,” he said.

“He’s done that to lots of other people out there as well.”

Darren went on to say that Jock would text or call him “out of the blue” to ensure he was doing well. The pair had a strong connection due to Jock’s openness about his mental health issues.

“I felt that I could talk to him about absolutely any subject and although he was a big Scottish masculine guy, I could talk to him about stuff that really mattered,” he said.

“And that’s how I remember his friendship.”

The TV personality was a devoted father. Photo: Instagram/zonfrillo
The TV personality was a devoted father. Photo: Instagram/zonfrillo

Melissa Leong and Andy Allen’s reaction

Entertainment editor Angela Bishop confirmed that Jock had been in Italy with his family before his death, and had only returned to Australia to “fulfil publicity commitments” for MasterChef’s new season.

She revealed how his co-hosts Melissa Leong and Andy Allen reacted to the news.

“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.”

With Newswire

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