A visibly shaken Manu Feildel has spoken of his confusion and grief following the sudden death of MasterChef Australia judge Jock Zonfrillo at the age of 46.
The host of My Kitchen Rules, who enjoyed a friendly rivalry with Zonfrillo in the TV and culinary world, told 7News Monday he was devastated for the Scottish-born chef’s wife and children.
“I just turned fifty and I still feel young, so I’m telling you, forty-six . . . it’s way too young to go,” Feildel said.
“I feel really sorry for his wife and his children… I have children of my own and I find it difficult to find my words at this time.
“He had a very successful career and suddenly it all stopped. You only wonder how and why.’
A visibly shaken Manu Feildel has spoken of his confusion and grief following the sudden death of MasterChef judge Jock Zonfrillo at the age of 46
Feildel said his phone was bloated with calls and texts from friends in the hospitality industry.
Texts came to my phone. Colin Fassnidge was one of the first to call me. It’s a very tight industry; the cooks are our friends,” he said.
“We are all buddies and when one person goes down, everyone feels a pinch. We feel terrible about it.
“He was a really nice guy… He will be sorely missed by many people.”
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 the hit cooking show on Channel 10 with Andy Allen and Melissa 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.”
The host of My Kitchen Rules, who enjoyed a friendly rivalry with Zonfrillo in the TV and culinary world, told 7News he was devastated for the Scottish-born chef’s wife and children
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.”
Feildel said: ‘He’s had a really successful career and suddenly it all stopped. You just wonder how and why’
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.”
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.”
Police found Zonfrillo’s body around 2am on Monday after being called to a hotel on Lygon Street in Carlton, Melbourne for a welfare check
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.”
“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.
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.
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. (Zonfrillo, Fried, and their two children are seen here in a recent family photo)