Emotions run high during touching tribute to celebrity chef Jock Zonfrillo

May 08, 2023
MasterChef Australia judge Andy Allen was among the first to pay tribute, reflecting on his last encounter with Zonfrillo only days before his death. Source: Getty Images.

As Australia continues to mourn the sudden loss of celebrity chef Jock Zonfrillo, a poignant television tribute was aired to honour his life and legacy.

Zonfrillo passed away on Sunday, April 30 at the age of 46 with his family confirming his sudden death in a statement.

“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,” the statement read.

“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.

“We implore you to please let us grieve privately as we find a way to navigate through this and find space on the other side to celebrate our irreplaceable husband, father, brother, son and friend.”

Ahead of MasterChef’s season 15 return on Sunday, May 7, The Project aired a special tribute episode for Zonfrillo. The episode showcased numerous heartfelt messages from notable chefs and celebrities, culminating in a stirring rendition of The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond by Jimmy Barnes.

MasterChef Australia judge Andy Allen was among the first to pay tribute, reflecting on his last encounter with Zonfrillo only days before his death.

It was so normal. He was in such good spirits,” he said.

“He was so excited about the show launching.”

Allen then spoke of how difficult it has been following the passing of his friend and colleague.

“I want to say I’m OK, but I am not great,” he said.

“He’s just always been there for me, and I’m just struggling to realise that he’s actually, he’s gone.

“I am gonna miss everything that this guy has brought into my life.”

A visibly emotional Gordon Ramsey also revealed how “devastating” Zonfrillo’s death had been.

‘The ripples have been devastating. If there’s one thing that we’ve done as chefs is we’ve united and we’re talking about the good times,” he said

“That’s all. If I could say one last thing. Mate, love you. Miss yoy. And that next glass of whisky, it’s dedicated to you, mate. I’ll miss you.”

Australian chef Curtis Stone described Zonfrillo as a “kind, fair, genuine and honest” man.

“He genuinely loved people. He would speak to the person who made coffee the same way he spoke to the director,” Stone recalled.

“He did a lot on this planet, and it’s time for him to rest.”

Marco Pierre White said “Jock Zonfrillo will never die. He will live on through everyone he touched.”

“He lives within us, and everybody who watches that show, a little piece of him will be still in there. That’s the truth.”

The touching tribute and heartfelt messages from renowned chefs and celebrities struck a chord with viewers who were deeply moved by the special.

At the age of 13, Zonfrillo commenced his foray into the culinary world by working part-time as a dishwasher while still attending school. He left formal education at the age of 15 to embark on an apprenticeship at The Turnberry Hotel’s kitchens and later honed his craft at the renowned Arkle Restaurant in Chester. Zonfrillo then had the opportunity to work under the tutelage of the legendary Marco Pierre White before venturing down under to work at Sydney’s Restaurant 41 for a year.

Upon returning to the UK, Zonfrillo’s talents did not go unnoticed as he was appointed head chef at The Tresanton Hotel in Cornwall at the young age of 22. However, the allure of the Australian culinary scene proved too strong, and he headed back to Australia in 2000 to take on the role of head chef at Restaurant 41. Zonfrillo’s expertise and culinary creativity continued to soar, earning him the title of head chef at Penfolds Magill Estate Restaurant in South Australia in 2011, though he eventually departed after a year and a half.

In November of 2013, Zonfrillo launched both Restaurant Orana and Street ADL in Adelaide, though Street ADL would later be replaced by Bistro Blackwood in September of 2017. In August of 2017, Zonfrillo’s culinary prowess was lauded as Restaurant Orana was bestowed the title of Australia’s 2018 Restaurant of the Year by Gourmet Traveller magazine. That same year, Zonfrillo himself was crowned Australia’s 2018 Hottest Chef in The Australian.

Zonfrillo’s impressive culinary achievements continued to rack up in October of 2018, as Orana was named Australia’s 2019 Restaurant of the Year by The Good Food Guide, while also earning three chef hats in the 2019 and 2020 Chef Hat Awards.

In 2019, Zonfrillo was unveiled as one of the judges for the widely popular cooking competition, MasterChef Australia. Joining forces with culinary luminaries Melissa Leong and Andy Allen, Zonfrillo brought his wealth of experience and expertise to the table, captivating audiences with his signature flair and enthusiasm for the culinary arts.

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