Jock Zonfrillo assembled a secret collection of one-on-one interviews with some of the country’s top chefs prior to his shock death.
Daily Mail Australia can reveal that the MasterChef judge, who died suddenly on April 30 at the age of 46, regularly invited chefs into his Channel Ten trailer after filming sessions of the hit show to record private chats on two smartphones .
Subjects, according to celebrity chef Luke Nguyen who sat down with Zonfrillo, often veered away from the kitchen and focused on more personal topics, such as family life, plans for the future and passions outside of the intense hospitality industry.
Zonfrillo is said to have amassed dozens of fascinating sit-downs with culinary leaders during his three years at MasterChef.
The revelations come after Zonfrillo’s widow Lauren Fried recently said her late husband had been working on a number of side projects before his death and she now didn’t know what was “appropriate” for release.
Jock Zonfrillo (left, with MasterChef co-host Andy Allen) built a secret collection of one-on-one interviews with the nation’s leading chefs
Celebrity chef Luke Nguyen (pictured with twins Kian and Kohl) recalls his last 15-minute sit-down with his friend
Nguyen, a close friend of Zonfrillo who filmed an interview with him just before his death, recalled the last 15 minutes of “sit-down” in the MasterChef jury trailer.
“They had nothing to do with MasterChef… they were just for him, as far as I could tell,” Nguyen told Daily Mail Australia.
“We went on set in his little trailer and we had a chat, which was all recorded on his own phone and lasted maybe 10 to 15 minutes.
“All sorts of questions were recorded for, I suspect, his own personal records.
“We talked about everything from food to what we were doing in life and he and I talked specifically about coffee, which we both really loved.
“We also talked about whisky… which he loved. And gin, which I love.
“It was just talking about a lot of different topics that rarely had anything to do with food.”
Nguyen, who travels to Brisbane this weekend, where he is the new culinary ambassador for the Stradbroke Racing Carnival, said the informal interviews showed a different side of Zonfrillo, which he described as “very sensitive.”
“There were all sorts of questions recorded for what I believe were his own personal records,” said Nguyen (pictured at his Fat Noodle restaurant in The Star)
The casual interviews reveal a ‘sensitive’ side of Zonfrillo (pictured here with wife Lauren)
“Jock was very sensitive, but also sensitive to others, and very aware of his environment and people,” Nguyen said.
“He was such a hospitable man… not just in his restaurants but just in his everyday life.”
Nguyen said an example of Zonfrillo’s generous spirit was when he was rehearsing for his MasterChef segment in the early hours of the morning with only a small crew of helpers.
“It was early, like 7 in the morning, and I had to cook my dishes for the show and then the next thing, Jock and he says, ‘What are we doing? Are we cooking? Let’s cook !”‘ Nguyen said with a laugh.
“The next minute he’s running around making everyone coffee and then he and I are testing recipes together, and I remember it was such a memorable time.
“He was just so passionate about everything and just a real gentleman. A real gentleman.’
Nguyen has been a frequent guest at MasterChef over the years and had developed a close friendship with the Zonfrillo, the pair sharing a particular passion for native Australian ingredients.
Nguyen (right, during a previous MasterChef appearance) saw Zonfrillo just weeks before his tragic death in a Melbourne hotel – hours before the launch of MasterChef 2023
Their last meeting was just weeks before Zonfrillo’s tragic death in a Melbourne hotel on April 30 – just hours before the launch of MasterChef’s 2023 series.
In the months since, Nguyen, a multi-time restaurant operator and executive chef at The Star, has been busy preparing for his first ever role leading a racing carnival, The Star Stradbroke Season 2023 in Brisbane.
He recalled the moment he heard the shocking news of Zonfrillo’s death while traveling abroad with his family.
“I was devastated…devastated,” he said.
“I was in a hotel room and my kids were there and I couldn’t really show my emotions to them, but I was gutted.
‘It was such a loss for so many people and the hospitality industry.’
Daily Mail Australia has contacted Lauren Fried for comment on the future of the secret interviews and whether they will be made public.
Fried recently took to Instagram to share an update on how she was coping after her husband’s death, admitting that her grief has remained raw.
Lauren Fried recently took to Instagram to share an update on how she was coping after her husband’s death, admitting her grief was left raw
“It’s been a month since we lost Jock, and I drew a line in the sand thinking that after a month I’d turn some corner. That obviously didn’t happen,” she began.
Fried thanked fans “all over the world” for the “overwhelming” messages of support.
“I really wish he knew how loved he was, that he knew the impact he had on so many people,” she said.
“It’s been a month since we lost Jock, and I drew a line in the sand thinking I’d turn some corner after a month,” said Fried.
Fried said she and Zonfrillo had “worked hard” on his social media, but she didn’t know what would be “appropriate” to share on his Instagram account after his death.
“He had behind-the-scenes photos and interviews of MasterChef, books, a fashion range, he ages spirits in a distillery in Tasmania,” she explained, visibly emotional.
“He has a TV show he filmed with the family in Italy last year,” Fried continued, before adding that she would be conducting social media polls to help decide what fans want to see in the future.