Pictured: Jock Zonfrillo, 46, who died Monday
When “Jock” Zonfrillo was a young boy growing up in a small village in Scotland, he wanted to be just like his grandfather – a “nice, wise nunno” who walked around with all his grandchildren.
But his dream of growing old and seeing his own four children become parents was snatched in the early hours of Monday morning when police found the 46-year-old dead in his bed at the Zagames House boutique hotel in Melbourne’s Carlton.
No drug paraphernalia was found, no one else was in the hotel room, and police believed the MasterChef judge had died of natural causes.
Zonfrillo’s body has now been released to his wife, Lauren Fried, and the exact cause of death will be determined by the coroner.
Friends, family and colleagues from around the world flooded social media with tributes to the fallen chef and by Tuesday morning there was no doubt in anyone’s mind about the kind of person Zonfrillo was.
The words “kind,” “caring,” and “generous” were repeated over and over by those who knew him as a MasterChef judge and culinary mentor, kind neighbor, devoted father, and incredible chef.
However, the published tributes lacked extraordinary details about his life in Ayrshire as a young boy, then known as Barry, who became the class clown because he hated going to school at Belmont Academy and not attending it heard.
His neighbors in Ayrshire were proud that someone from their small community had made it international, and were saddened when he passed away.
Jock Zonfrillo is pictured, left, with his sister Carla and his father Ivan. He grew up in Ayrshire, Scotland
The MasterChef judge was born Barry Zonfrillo. He is depicted as a child in Scotland
His name and photo were shared on a local Facebook group three years ago by a Scot who was watching MasterChef Australia and realized Zonfrillo, a new judge on the show at the time, was from his area.
“Anyone know him?” the man asked.
Amazed locals flocked to the comments to say they remembered him as Barry, the son of well-known hairdressers Ivan and Sarah Zonfrillo.
“I know him,” said a man. “Worked as a Saturday boy in his father’s shop.”
Another wrote: ‘Loved to see someone from my hometown do really well on TV but still be Scottish.’
A third person said, ‘Wow one of us, brilliant!’
Others said they remembered him as a child at Belmont Academy, said his parents still live in Ayrshire and shared intimate details about his extended family.
On Monday, group members were angry when the thread was updated with news of his death.
Jock Zonfrillo hated school and didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he discovered cooking. He is depicted as a baby with his older sister, Carla
Jock Zonfrillo worked Saturdays at his father’s hairdresser. He did it to spend more time with his father
In his memoir, Zonfrillo recalled being so desperate to spend time with his father that he volunteered to work at his barbershop on Saturdays—sweeping, washing hair, and teasing with grumpy men who came in.
He didn’t want to follow his father into hairdressing at the time – he felt he was going to spend his life in a shop six days a week – but as he got older he wondered if he should have.
“I have often looked back and wished I had stayed in town and taken over the store,” he wrote.
“I would have loved nothing more than to be able to work with Dad every day.
“I probably would have been bored to tears, but that would have been mitigated by the chance to have him with me through the years as I went through all of life’s ups and downs.”
And his life had many ups and downs. He was in trouble from the week he started school – his cousins, who shared his family name, were misbehaved and all the teachers expected nothing less from the youngest Zonfrillo.
He thought school was boring, teachers said he would never be anything, and he was bullied by other kids for being half-Italian and eating salami and garlic on ciabatta instead of a regular sandwich for lunch.
But perhaps the most challenging aspect of his childhood came when he and his friends were 11 years old and decided to break into a car garage after dark and steal three vehicles.
None of the schoolboys had driven a car before and promptly smashed one when they tried to pull it into the driveway.
Jock Zonfrillo’s father (pictured together) was a hairdresser and his mother a hairdresser. They both still live in Ayrshire
Jock Zonfrillo did not like school and always got into trouble. At the age of eleven he tried to steal a car
They were caught and two were charged, but Zonfrillo’s parents managed to persuade the police to prosecute their son.
Despite getting out of legal trouble, his parents were furious. His father was so angry he couldn’t speak and his mother couldn’t stop yelling and screaming.
“From that point on, my parents never let go,” Zonfrillo wrote.
“It was a strange grudge that Mom and Dad held against me. Although they didn’t put it into words, they never let it go… I don’t think my parents ever really forgave me.”
Zonfrillo eventually got a job in a kitchen. He didn’t like his first job as a dishwasher, but soon found his calling when he was offered a job as a cook.
He left school to pursue an extraordinary career as a chef, during which time he battled heroin addiction, moved to Australia and opened award-winning restaurants.
He had two children with his second wife and two more with his third wife, Mrs. Fried.
It is believed Zonfrillo was settling down in Rome with his young family before disaster struck on Monday.
He returned to Melbourne to do promotional work for the 15th season of MasterChef, which was set to premiere on Monday.
The show now airs Sundays at 7:30 p.m.
Jock Zonfrillo is pictured with his wife, Lauren Fried, and their two children – Isla and Alfie