MasterChef winner Brent Draper had something to prove this time round

Brent Draper felt it would be important to return to <I>MasterChef</I>, to show people you can come out the other side.

Brent Draper felt it would be important to return to MasterChef, to show people you can come out the other side.

In 2021, Brent Draper left MasterChef judges and contestants in tears when he announced he would be leaving the show.

This year, he returned and won.

Draper spent Sunday night watching the finale with family and friends from both seasons, celebrating both his win and the legacy of his friend and MasterChef judge Jock Zonfrillo.

Speaking to The New Daily on Monday morning, Draper said while it was a special night with his young son Alfie, “bloody partying” until about midnight, it was also an emotional experience.

His return to the kitchen, and television screens, around Australia was more than just about winning; Draper had something he wanted to show the country.

During season 13 of MasterChef, Draper recognised he was not coping well mentally, and decided to take himself off the show and focus on his mental health.

“We all do it for our physical health. If we’ve got a sore ankle, we’ll all … have rest, rest the ankles – it should be exactly the same with mental health,” he said.

“If we’re not feeling the greatest and we’re having a tough time, then we should be resting and getting better and getting help.”

In season 13, people saw Draper at his most “vulnerable”, which is why he wanted to come back for another season to show people what’s possible with a bit of hard work and rest.

“I just thought it would be a great inspiration for people if I can show them that you can be struggling, but a little bit of hard work … getting some help, it can all turn around so quickly,” Draper said.

MasterChef  winner’s special friendship

The sudden death of Zonfrillo cast a shadow over the season.

The finale was a celebration of the contestants, Draper’s win and Zonfrillo.

Growing up, Draper didn’t have a family member to mentor him about food, but he found that in Zonfrillo when they worked together on season 13.

“I clung on to Jock in my first season and, you know, he essentially was that inspiration and food mentor for me,” Draper said, adding that throughout season 13 and beyond, Zonfrillo helped him.

Every charity event Draper supported following his departure in 2021, every fundraising event, Zonfrillo was the first to donate or send through a message of support.

“He’s a very special, special man to me,” Draper said.

“I’m honoured to have gone through this season, that last season, with Jock and spend some more time with him.”

pictured is Masterchef winner Brent Draper

Brent Draper said Jock Zonfrillo was a huge inspiration for him. Photo: Network 10

Watching this season of MasterChef, with Zonfrillo’s death just days before its premiere, was understandably tough for many.

His wife Lauren Fried took to his Instagram on the night of the episode, explaining while his family does plan to watch his final season, they are yet to do so.

However, watching the finale as a family was something they did together and something Zonfrillo enjoyed.

“This is something that he [Zonfrillo] loved doing, and this is not the end of the line for Jock at all,” Ms Fried said.

“We have so many wonderful recipes of Jock having fun, of travel, of family stuff that I would love to share with everyone. It’s very much a way that I can find meaning through all of this.”

She thanked those who sent her messages in the lead up to the finale. At the very end of the episode, a montage of his best moments on MasterChef were played.

What’s next for Draper?

After winning and claiming the prize of a cool $250,000, Draper plans on merging his two passions – cooking and mental health advocacy.

He said he plans to create a cookbook, which would tell the stories of chefs and people, relating it back to cooking.

He also thinks there could be some sort of “mental health toolbox” in the back.

“It would be a great little present for you to give to somebody who, you know, might be struggling a little bit. Obviously, there’s a lot of emotions tied to food, and I think it can all marry up really well,” he said.

Of course, it’s not all work ahead for Draper.

Just a few weeks ago, Draper and his wife Shonleigh announced they were expecting their second child.

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