The hosts and judges of MasterChef Australia have withdrawn from their scheduled media interviews following the sudden death of Jock Zonfrillo at the age of 46.
Andy Allen and Melissa Leong were locked down this week for several TV and radio appearances to promote the cooking show’s fifteenth season, which was set to premiere Monday on Channel Ten but has since been postponed out of respect for Zonfrillo’s family.
The publicity blitz had already begun Monday morning hours before the network and production company Endemol Shine learned of Zonfrillo’s death.
Australia’s most popular radio programme Kyle and Jackie O acknowledged on Tuesday that Allen was scheduled for an interview that fell through.
Host Kyle Sandilands also said he believed the new season of MasterChef would never see the light of day, despite reports that it was only delayed for a week.
The hosts and judges of MasterChef Australia have withdrawn from their scheduled media interviews following the sudden death of Jock Zonfrillo at the age of 46. (Photo L-R: Andy Allen, Melissa Leong and Jock Zonfrillo at the Channel 10 Upfronts presentation on Oct 11, 2019)
“We would have Andy Allen from MasterChef,” he said.
“But after that news of Jock’s death, they canceled the whole show. It’s not even airing. MasterChef isn’t airing, is that right?’
When his co-host Jackie “O” Henderson clarified that Ten was “just putting it off for a week,” Sandilands said he’d heard the network “just didn’t run it out of respect.”
“They can’t run the show with the man who’s dead. I just don’t think that’s right,” he added.
‘Would I want my family to have to watch (Australian) Idol if I was dead because I had already filmed it? I do not think so.’
Andy Allen (left) and Melissa Leong (center) were locked down this week for several TV and radio appearances to promote the cooking show’s fifteenth season, which was set to premiere Monday on Channel Ten but has since been postponed out of respect for Sunfrillo’s family
Leong, 41, and Allen, 35, are said to be “devastated” and “broken” by Zonfrillo’s death.
Angela Bishop, Channel Ten’s entertainment reporter, appeared on The Project on Monday – where Zonfrillo was set to appear before his death – and said she had heard his co-stars struggled to process the news.
“It’s a loss of the relative here at Ten… (he was) only 46. That’s why this is such shocking news,” Bishop said.
“As you say, together they would work 16 hours a day for MasterChef. You could not find closer colleagues and confidants.
“They’re devastated. “Broken” is the word that was described to me. They are trying to process this news.’
Zonfrillo’s other colleagues at MasterChef only seemed to know he had passed away shortly before the news broke on Monday afternoon, as the publicity machine for the new season wasn’t moving until 11:30 a.m., when Leong posted a countdown to the premiere on her Instagram account .
Leong also did an interview with Hit WA Breakfast at about 8am on Monday, in which she spoke about the couple’s close friendship.
Zonfrillo’s death comes as the fifteenth season of MasterChef, starring Jamie Oliver as a guest judge, was set to premiere Monday night on Ten. The show will not air this week due to his passing.
The Kyle and Jackie O Show acknowledged on Tuesday that Allen was scheduled for an interview that fell through. Kyle Sandilands (pictured) said he believed the new season of MasterChef was completely ‘cancelled’ despite reports it was merely being postponed
Police found Zonfrillo’s body around 2am on Monday after being called to a hotel on Lygon Street in Melbourne’s Carlton for a welfare check.
No cause of death has been released, but police say his death is not being treated as suspicious. A report is being prepared for the coroner.
Zonfrillo is survived by his third wife, Lauren Fried, and his four children: teenage daughters Ava and Sophia, from his first two marriages, and six-year-old Alfie and two-year-old Isla, with Fried.
The Scottish-Australian chef co-hosted popular cooking show Channel 10 with Allen and Leong in 2019. The trio replaced original judges Matt Preston, George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan after they left the show over a pay dispute.
“With hearts completely shattered and with no way of knowing how to go through life without him, we are devastated to share that Jock passed away yesterday,” his family said in a statement Monday.
“There are so many words to describe him, so many stories to be told, but right now we are 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 Scotsman in your heart when you have your next whisky.
“We beg you to please let us grieve in private as we find a way to navigate this, and find space on the other side to celebrate our irreplaceable husband, father, brother, son and friend.”
British chef Jamie Oliver, who is a guest judge on this year’s MasterChef and recently wrapped up shooting with Zonfrillo, said he was “totally shocked” by his friend’s death.
“I am in utter shock to wake up to the sudden death of Chef Jock Zonfrillo. We had the best time working together for this year’s MasterChef. I can’t say how good it was working with him,” he wrote on Instagram.
“Jock was very generous to me with his time and energy on the show and I was very grateful for that.
Melissa, Andy and Jock work as the most inspiring judges and mentors, each with their own unique take on and style. Jock will be missed so much.
“I can’t believe I’m writing this. Sending heartfelt love and condolences to all his family, friends and second family, the MasterChef team and participants.”
Other tributes from the celebrity and culinary world poured in Monday afternoon.
Fellow chef and TV personality Colin Fassnidge told Daily Mail Australia: ‘It’s so shocking. I’m sitting on a rock right now trying to take it in, I don’t know what to say. I’m floored.
“I had to call my wife as soon as I heard.”
Fellow chef and TV personality Colin Fassnidge (pictured) told Daily Mail Australia: ‘It’s so shocking. I’m sitting on a rock right now trying to take it in, I don’t know what to say. I’m floored’
Fassnidge, who had been friends with Zonfrillo for 20 years and last saw him two weeks ago at the Taste of Adelaide food festival, said there was no indication anything went wrong with him, and the news came as a complete surprise.
“He flew, he did a great job, he had a great show, he was on top of the world. Jock was normal, he was healthy and he lived a good life,” he said.
“I just feel so sorry for his other half.”
Fassnidge revealed that Zonfrillo’s passing had turned the hospitality industry upside down.
“We’re all competing in the ratings, but we’re all one big family in hospitality,” he said.
‘On a certain level, all the chefs know each other.
‘Everyone is calling. Everyone knows that the whole community is in shock.
“He’s a different version of me. He likes a joke. He used to love the whisky. He’s just a great TV presenter and a great cook.
‘I don’t know what I think yet. We were rivals and we were friends.’
British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay said on Twitter that he was devastated by the news.
“I really enjoyed the time we spent together at MasterChef in Australia,” he tweeted. “I send all my love to Lauren and the family during this difficult time.”
Zonfrillo, who began his career working for Michelin-starred chef Marco Pierre White in the UK, famously overcame a heroin addiction during his teenage years in Glasgow before becoming one of Australia’s most celebrated chefs.
He once said he owed his life to food, telling an interviewer, “It saved my life. Many of my friends from my early days are now dead or in prison.
“The point of being a junkie is that the only way you can get out is if there’s something in your life that’s more compelling than drugs. And for me, I had another addiction: food and cooking. That’s what moved me on. That’s how I survived.’
After getting clean and settling in Britain, Zonfrillo migrated to Australia and became a chef at Sydney’s Restaurant 41 in the year 2000.
He opened the award-winning Restaurant Orana in Adelaide in 2013.
In 2018, the year before he joined MasterChef, he was named Australia’s Hottest Chef by the Australian newspaper.
That year Orana was also named Australia’s best restaurant by the Good Food Guide.
Restaurant Orana closed its doors in 2020 when it went into voluntary bankruptcy with debts totaling $3.2 million.