‘Unforgettable life’: Shock and sadness after TV chef Jock Zonfrillo dies

MasterChef Australia judge Jock Zonfrillo lived an “unforgettable” life, rising from heroin addiction to become one of Australia’s most successful chefs.

His “shocking and inspiring” story, told in his 2021 memoir Last Shot, was one of “addiction, ambition and redemption”.

The late TV host is being remembered for his talent and generosity after his sudden death in Melbourne at the age of 46.

Police found the award-winning chef unresponsive in a hotel on Lygon Street, Carlton, in inner-city Melbourne while performing a welfare check at 2am Monday.

No cause of death has been released, but police said it was not being treated as suspicious.

The Daily Mail reports Zonfrillo had been secretly battling bowel cancer for years and had chemotherapy, first in 2016 and again in 2021.

The tragic loss of the TV host has left the 15th season of MasterChef Australia in limbo. It had been due to go to air on Monday night, but was pulled while executive decisions are made.

Zonfrillo had reportedly been in Europe with his family in recent weeks after production of this year’s season finished about a month ago.

The Daily Telegraph reports his wife, Lauren, and their two young children, Alfie, 6, and Isla, 2, stayed in Rome when Zonfrillo flew home early ahead of the season launch.

Network Ten confirmed Zonfrillo’s death on the same day MasterChef was scheduled to return for its 2023 season.

In one of his final interviews promoting the upcoming series launch, Zonfrillo revealed his most surprising ambition was to lead a “super simple life”.

“I’d love to live a super, super simple life. A small house in the middle of nowhere with kids, pets,” he told News Corp in an interview published on Sunday.

“Just a really simple, uncomplicated life away from everyone. But still part of a community in that remoteness I guess.

“But not the flashy extravagant lifestyle you’d expect from a TV person.”

He also said the biggest surprise people learn about him is “that all it takes to make me happy is a cup of tea”.

“I’ll always say yes to a cup of tea. And I mean if you throw in a Tunnock’s biscuit – like a teacake – I’m a very happy man.”

‘Shocking and inspiring’ story

Zonfrillo’s 2021 memoir told of his life from “reckless drug addict to one of Australia’s top chefs and television stars”.

“Jock’s life spiralled out of control when he tried heroin for the first time as a teenager while growing up in 1980s Glasgow,” it says.

“For years he balanced a career as a rising star amongst legendary chefs with a crippling drug addiction that took him down many dark paths.

“Fired from his job at a Michelin star restaurant in Chester, England, after a foul-mouthed rant, Jock made his way to London looking for work and found himself in front of the legendary Marco Pierre White.

“He credits White for saving his life, but Jock continued to struggle with addiction in a world of excess, celebrity, and cut-throat ambition.

“On New Year’s Eve 1999, Jock shot up his last shot of heroin before boarding a plane to Sydney, where he would find passion and new meaning in life in the most unexpected places.”

He opened Adelaide restaurants Bistro Blackwood and Orana. But there would be more struggles, including both businesses being placed into voluntary administration in October 2020.

He joined MasterChef in 2019.

In a statement after his death, Zonfrillo’s family described him as an irreplaceable husband, father, brother, son and friend.

“With completely shattered hearts and without knowing how we can possibly move through life without him, we are devastated to share that Jock passed away yesterday,” they said.

“So many words can describe him, so many stories can be told but at this time we’re too overwhelmed to put them into words.

“For those who crossed his path, became his mate or were lucky enough to be his family, keep this proud Scot in your hearts when you have your next whisky.”

Zonfrillo is survived by wife Lauren Fried and children Ava, Sophie, Alfie and Isla.

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-with AAP

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