Jock Zonfrillo 'secretly battled bowel cancer' before his death
British MasterChef host Jock Zonfrillo ‘was secretly battling bowel cancer’ before he was found dead in a hotel room at the age of 46
- Jock Zonfrillo had secretly battled bowel cancer for years, sources revealed
- No cause of death has been revealed, but it is not suggested he died of cancer
British MasterChef host Jock Zonfrillo had secretly battled bowel cancer for years before he was found dead in an Australian hotel room, sources have said.
Mr Zonfrillo was found dead in a hotel room in Melbourne around 2am this morning following a welfare check.
No cause of death has been disclosed and it is not suggested the 46-year-old died of cancer, only that he had told close friends he was suffering from the disease.
A Victoria Police spokesperson said that while a report would be prepared for the coroner, Mr Zonfrillo’s death was not being treated as suspicious.
Th chef is understood to have kept his health problems quiet and usually received treatment when the cooking program was not filming.
British MasterChef host Jock Zonfrillo (pictured) had secretly battled bowel cancer for years before he was found dead in an Australian hotel room, sources have said
Mr Zonfrillo (pictured) was found dead in a hotel room in Melbourne around 2am this morning following a welfare check. No cause of death has been disclosed and it is not suggested the 46-year-old died of cancer
Mr Zonfrillo had been receiving treatment for bowel cancer from at least June 2021, a month after it was detected in a colonoscopy, Daily Mail Australia was told.
A source said at the time: ‘No one in his circle is aware of what he is going through. Neither colleagues or friends.’
‘He has not wanted anyone to know as he deals with this tough journey. He is coping poorly with chemo treatment, and the effects it is having.’
In the months that followed, Mr Zonfrillo was an out-patient at the Kinghorn Cancer Centre in Sydney and Epworth Oncology in Melbourne as well as seeking treatment in Queensland, the source said.
Mr Zonfrillo underwent chemotherapy while filming the second series of Celebrity MasterChef in 2021.
A Victoria Police spokesperson said that while a report would be prepared for the coroner, Mr Zonfrillo’s death was not being treated as suspicious. The celebrity chef is pictured cooking
Mr Zonfrillo (right) was an out-patient at the Kinghorn Cancer Centre in Sydney and Epworth Oncology in Melbourne as well as seeking treatment in Queensland, sources have claimed. He is pictured on an episode of MasterChef
MasterChef judge Jock Zonfrillo had secretly battled bowel cancer after undergoing neck surgery, sources have said. Daily Mail Australia understands Zonfrillo had been receiving treatment for bowel cancer from at least June 2021
Daily Mail Australia, which has seen evidence of Mr Zonfrillo discussing the diagnosis with a close friend, contacted the chef and members of his family in August 2021 but received no response.
Mr Zonfrillo had previously been treated for bowel cancer with chemotherapy and radiation and went into remission in 2016. The cancer then returned more aggressively.
Mr Zonfrillo did not mention suffering from cancer in his 2021 memoir Last Shot.
In August that year, Australia’s Network Ten denied off-the-record that Mr Zonfrillo had cancer and a source said he had still told few people about the diagnosis.
‘I was told the reason why he hasn’t disclosed his medical condition was because he didn’t want people feeling sorry for him, or treating him any different,’ the source said back then.
‘He has dropped in weight since his diagnosis because the chemo is causing nausea, excessive vomiting and he can’t keep food down for too long.’
In September last year Mr Zonfrillo was receiving cancer treatment while sailing in Italy.
Mr Zonfrillo kept his cancer diagnosis quiet for years. British chef Jamie Oliver (right) is pictured with Zonfrillo (centre) and fellow MasterChef judges Melissa Leong and Andy Allen
‘I was told the reason why he hasn’t disclosed his medical condition was because he didn’t want people feeling sorry for him, or treating him any different,’ a source said in August 2021. Mr Zonfrillo is pictured in November 2018
The source said he had been avoiding hospital and was instead being attended by a doctor who was flown in to treat him.
‘He claimed that each time he was getting any medical treatment there was a barrage of nurses that keep coming into his room, and he didn’t want to be impolite by asking to be left alone,’ the source said.
‘He said he’d rather be sick and feel like c**p away from the discomfort of prying eyes.’
Mr Zonfrillo wrote in Last Shot about his years of heroin addiction as a young man in Glasgow.
Jock Zonfrillo’s darkest hours: How celebrity chef was frank about his anxiety and colourful life – from using heroin, losing his virginity at 12 and setting an apprentice on fire… to staring down accusations he wasn’t truthful about his life story
By Brittany Chain for Daily Mail Australia
Jock Zonfrillo’s life, as he told it, was anything but plain.
The Glasgow-born chef seemed to enjoy living far from the comfort zone.
He once described his battle with heroin as being like a scene from the famous Scottish drug movie Trainspotting, and said most of his friends from that time were ‘dead or in jail’.
The 46-year-old certainly packed plenty into his life. He claimed he lost his virginity poolside in Yugoslavia aged 12.
By 2017, he was the hottest chef in Australia, with his restaurant Orana winning awards across the world.
At just 46, the father of four was found dead in a hotel room in Lygon Street, Carlton, at 2am on Monday by police. There was no suspicious circumstances.
Zonfrillo always said he lived every day outside of his comfort zone, despite struggling with anxiety at various stages of his life.
‘I always have,’ he said. ‘Cram it into your mouth, snort it up your nose, bang it into your vein; if it doesn’t kill you, you never know: it might make your life more interesting.’
Zonfrillo first took up a job in a kitchen aged 12. By 2017, he was the hottest chef in Australia, with his restaurant Orana winning awards across the world
He once described his battle with heroin as being like a scene from the famous Scottish dug movie Trainspotting, and said most of his friends from that time were ‘dead or in jail’
Zonfrillo opened up to Daily Mail Australia in 2021 about his battle with anxiety, revealing he carries worry beads with him at all times to keep him calm.
‘I don’t classify myself as having a super crippling anxiety but it’s certainly there. It’s challenging and it’s tough,’ he said.
‘For me, if you have any kind of difficulty or mental health – you’re embarrassed or ashamed, it makes you feel vulnerable. But I think at the end of the day, for me the worry beads were calming. It eases my mind.’
One moment he did come to regret took place in 2002, when he set fire to an 18-year-old apprentice during a heated moment in the kitchen.
He took ‘full responsibility’ for the incident, but insisted it was a practical joke gone awry. He dabbed a flammable gel used for keeping plates warm into the teenager’s lap, setting his pants on fire. In an attempt to rip them off, he suffered extensive burns to his hand. He was unable to work for three-and-a-half months, the apprentice said.
‘There was no malicious intent to deliberately set the poor lad on fire,’ he said.
The teenager, Martin Krammer, sued and Zonfrillo was ordered to pay $75,000 in damages. Zonfrillo later declared bankruptcy and Krammer said he was ‘never paid a cent’.
It was a gut-wrenching decision for the rising chef, who claims by this point he’d ‘replaced heroin with the insatiable need for success’.
He arrived in Australia seeking a fresh start in January 2000. He injected his last hit of heroin immediately before boarding the plane, and was in the throes of withdrawal by the time he landed.
About as far away from his former home in Scotland as humanly possible, Zonfrillo hit the ground running and in 20 years became one of Australia’s most formidable chefs.
He arrived in Australia seeking a fresh start in January 2000. He injected his last hit of heroin immediately before boarding the plane, and was in the throes of withdrawal by the time he landed
From setting an apprentice on fire to losing his virginity poolside in Yugoslavia aged 12 and defeating a crippling heroin addiction he developed on the streets of Glasgow, Jock Zonfrillo lived life as far from his ‘comfort zone’ as humanly possible
In the early days, he managed to keep details of his addiction and harrowing life experiences under wraps.
Life as he knew it imploded one day in 2014, when he fielded a call from a journalist who told him he was about to run an Australian exclusive story about his addiction.
‘He told me he was sorry, but he was going to run the story. I can’t say I blame him. It was a reasonable article, and it was truthful, and that’s what a journalist does.
‘I had to respect somebody who was good at their job, even if that meant blowing my life into little pieces.’
Zonfrillo was devastated. But more than that, he was concerned for his family. In all the years in the throes of addiction and afterwards, his family and those closest to him never knew.
Zonfrillo (left), Melissa Leong and Andy Allen shared the 2021 AACTA award for Best Reality Program for their work together on Masterchef
‘Mum and Dad were the most embarrassed. My mum in particular was very upset that people she knew would know that her son was a junkie.
‘Kelly, my ex-wife and mother of my oldest daughter, had no idea. Sure, she knew that I’d taken drugs, but heroin was something else entirely. In most people’s minds, a heroin junkie is the dirtiest version of an addict, and now everyone I’d ever known would know that about me. The fact I’d been clean for fourteen years felt irrelevant.’
But it also gave him a sense of freedom, and in the years since he was remarkably frank about the life he’d led overseas.
In his memoir, Last Shot, Zonfrillo shared never-before-heard details of his life story, including a memorable trip to Yugoslavia when he was 12 in which he lost his virginity to a ‘much older French woman’.
‘I was 12, she was French and much older. It was very wrong, now that I think back,’ he said.
It was also a defining moment in his culinary journey. The street food amazed him.
Shortly after returning home, Zonfrillo asked his parents to buy him a bike. It cost a fortune, he said, and his dad told him if he wanted it, he’d have to get a job to pay for it.
First, he tried Marks and Spencer. Then he approached Top Shop and Greggs bakery. All said no.
Finally, he was hired to wash dishes for cash in a local restaurant. Shortly after, he was moved onto vegetable duties. From then on, he knew he wanted to be a chef.
A year later, he moved on to a French restaurant, where colleagues introduced him to cocaine for the first time.
‘That was my entry point into that whole world,’ he said.
Eventually, he sought out the big city of Glasgow, lying to his parents with friends about weekends away and running amok while they were none the wiser.
MasterChef Australia judge Jock Zonfrillo died in Melbourne on Sunday at the age of 46, his family has confirmed
‘Then the drugs started creeping in. This was the late 80s and Glasgow was absolutely awash with narcotics of all types. Vast amounts of heroin and no shortage of party drugs or weed. Even the ice cream vans sold drugs,’ he said.
‘We’d pool our money and go buy a gram of weed off the ice cream man, plus a couple of choc-dip cones to go with it – because when it came down to it, we were still children.
‘We’d smoke a joint or we’d buy a pill, which were about £25 each back then, and split it four ways. So technically we were doing class A drugs, but not in a serious way: it was a lark. That line between boyhood shit and too-real grown-man s**t was barely there for us.’
But the ‘lark’ soon progressed into heavy heroin use.
He described the first high as ‘unlike anything he’d every had before’ and, soon afterwards, began seeking it out himself.
‘I realised that smoking heroin was a waste of time and injecting was the faster way to the high I needed,’ he said.
‘If I wasn’t shooting up at least twice a day I’d get sick with the first symptoms of withdrawal: shakes, muscle pain, nausea.’
Even in the midst of addiction, his talent in the kitchen was obvious to all that knew him. In 1994, he landed a role in the kitchen for Marco Pierre White.
He was homeless, and quietly began sleeping in the change room in work, a month behind on payments to his heroin dealers and struggling to survive.
When confronted by the decorated chef, Zonfrillo was upfront about his homelessness.
‘He didn’t fire me. Instead, he picked up the phone, put in a call to the hostel and asked them to fast-track me on the waiting list and find a bed for me,’ Zonfrillo recalled.
‘In the meantime, he put me in touch with a couple of boys from Canteen, the other restaurant he owned, and arranged for me to sleep on their sofa until I could get my shit together. He even advanced me some cash to tide me over.’
Following the release of the memoir, White said much of what was written about his exchanges with Zonfrillo were untrue.
He has no recollection of ever speaking with him about his living situation, and says he did not loan him money.
Zonfrillo is survived by his third wife, Lauren Fried, and his four children: Ava and Sophia, from his first two marriages, and Alfie and Isla, with Fried. (Zonfrillo, Fried and their two children are seen here in a recent family photo)
In fact, despite being referred to 157 times in the memoir and being described as Zonfrillo’s lead source of inspiration and a father-figure, White says the pair actually had very little to do with one another.
‘I never saw much of [Zonfrillo], and he worked in my kitchen for a very short time,’ he said.
Zonfrillo doubled down on the ‘story of his life’, and maintained finding cooking set him on the path to greatness, crediting it for saving him.
‘If I hadn’t found cooking as a career path, I would have ended up just another statistic of the Glasgow heroin epidemic,’ he said.
‘Having a career working for amazing people, in outstanding restaurants that demanded everything of me, meant that there was something heroin couldn’t take from me.
‘I would have been dead long ago. Because I was already on that path when heroin began to take over my life, I was able to hold on. Talent left unacknowledged turns into resentment and dies, and if that had happened to my love of cooking, I would have died along with it.’
Zonfrillo met his wife, Kelly, during a short holiday to Australia. The duo returned to London when his visa expired, but travelled to Sydney once more in 2000.
He says she had no idea he was addicted to heroin at the time, and the couple separated in 2002.
MasterChef Australia judge Jock Zonfrillo died in Melbourne on Sunday at the age of 46, his family has confirmed
‘At this stage of my life I was an irredeemable workaholic, which is just as bad as being an alcoholic or a drug addict in terms of invading your family life.’
Over the next decade, Zonfrillo honed his passion for native Australian ingredients and cuisine, launching his first restaurant, Orana, in Adelaide in 2013.
Zonfrillo had talent in spades, but he also had an incredible knack for marketing himself.
By 2017, he was one of the most celebrated chefs in the country. And in 2019, he joined MasterChef as one of the judges in a huge shake-up for the hugely successful cooking show.
He said in his memoir he considered turning the role down, wary of the level of fame and scrutiny it could bring.
‘Chefs hate on Jamie Oliver because he’s best known as a TV guy. I don’t. I love the guy. I’ve known chefs with three hats who loathe TV cooks. They hate them because they’re getting paid s**tloads of money to do what is a fairly easy job compared to being a hands-on chef, but if they’re teaching somebody a little bit of good nutrition or how to feed their kids then what’s the harm,’ he said.
Channel 10 cancels MasterChef after Jock’s death
Network 10 has announced MasterChef Australia will be postponed following the sudden death of judge Jock Zonfrillo.
The fifteenth season of the cooking show was set to premiere on Monday but Ten has confirmed it will not be airing this week.
The network had high hopes for the latest season, having secured British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver as a fourth judge in a major coup.
Channel Ten has announced MasterChef Australia will be postponed following the shock death of judge Jock Zonfrillo at age 46.
The fifteenth season of the cooking show was set to premiere on Monday but Ten has confirmed it will not be airing this week in light of Zonfrillo’s passing.
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 administration with debts totalling $3.2 million.
His family confirmed he had died in Melbourne on Sunday at the age of 46.
Zonfrillo is survived by his third wife, Lauren Fried, and his four children: Ava and Sophia, from his first two marriages, and Alfie and Isla, with Fried.
No cause of death has been disclosed.
Zonfrillo shared a post on Instagram promoting the brand-new season of MasterChef Australia hours before his death on Sunday.
He uploaded a photo of British chef Jamie Oliver, who is a guest judge on season 15, alongside a caption promoting Monday’s premiere.
‘MasterChef: Secrets & Surprises. Starts 7:30pm tomorrow,’ the post stated.
‘The time has come for @masterchefau to kick off a new season filled with Secrets & Surprises! And @jamieoliver of course,’ Zonfrillo added.
A Victoria Police spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia they found Zonfrillo’s body at about 2am on Monday, after they were called to an address on Lygon Street in Carlton for a welfare check.
A report will be prepared for the coroner.
‘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,’ his family said in a statement on Monday.
‘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.’
His death comes as MasterChef’s fifteenth season was due to premiere on Monday. The show will not be airing this week in light of Zonfrillo’s passing. (Pictured: Zonfrillo with fellow MasterChef judges Andy Allen and Melissa Leong at the AACTA Awards on December 7)
They continued: ‘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.’
Channel Ten and production company Endemol Shine Australia said in a statement: ‘[We] are deeply shocked and saddened at the sudden loss of Jock Zonfrillo, a beloved member of the MasterChef Australia family.
‘Jock passed away in Melbourne yesterday. Jock was known to Australians as a chef, best-selling author, philanthropist and MasterChef judge but he will be best remembered as a loving father, husband, brother and son.
‘Determined and talented and with plenty of grit, Jock was born in Glasgow to an Italian father and a Scottish mother, which meant his formative years were heavily influenced by two strong cultures and it was his obsession with food and desire for a new pushbike that at just 12 years old fuelled Jock to knock on kitchen doors looking for a job.
‘Jock’s love and passion for food saw him become one of the youngest culinary students to do an apprenticeship at The Turnberry Hotel at just 15 years of age. From that point onwards there was no holding him back and by 17 he was working alongside Marco Pierre White at his eponymous Restaurant Marco Pierre White.
‘Throughout his career he worked with world famous chefs and in restaurants all over the world. His talent saw him shine in the world’s most formidable kitchens and he opened Bistro Blackwood and Restaurant Orana in Adelaide after moving to Australia.
‘Jock’s Restaurant Orana was recognised with the coveted distinction of three hats in both 2019 and 2020 and he also received global accolades, accepting the prestigious Basque Culinary World Prize in 2018.
‘In 2019, Jock was named as a judge on MasterChef Australia in which he took great pride in challenging and coaching the contestants and of course inspiring a nation of home cooks.
‘Jock’s charisma, wicked sense of humour, generosity, passion and love for food and his family cannot be measured. He will be greatly missed.’
Devastated Colin Fassnidge reveals his final heartbreaking conversation with close mate Jock Zonfrillo
By Peter Vincent
Grief-stricken celebrity chef Colin Fassnidge says the sudden death of his friend and fellow chef Jock Zonfrillo is shocking given he was ‘on top of the world’ during their final conversation.
Fassnidge, who appeared on My Kitchen Rules and Kitchen Nightmares, has been friends with Zonfrillo for 20 years. He told Daily Mail Australia that he and the ‘entire community’ is struggling to process the tragic news.
‘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’ve had to call my wife straight away when I heard.’
Fassnidge said there was no indication anything was wrong for Zonfrillo, and the news was a complete surprise.
The pair speak regularly, but their last in-depth conversation was six months ago.
‘He was flying, he was doing a great job, he had a great show, he was on top of the world.
‘Jock was normal, he was healthy and he was living a good life. I just feel so sorry for his other half.’
Fassnidge said Zonfrillo’s passing has rocked the hospitality industry.
‘We all battle each other in the ratings, but we’re all one big family in hospitality,’ he said.
‘At a certain level, all the chefs know each other. Everyone is ringing. Everyone knows the entire community is in shock.’
Irish-Australian Fassnidge said he and Scot Zonfrillo became close friends because of their shared Celtic heritage and because they were alike.
‘He’s another version of me. He likes a joke. He liked the whisky in the old days, he’s just a great TV host and a great cook.
‘I don’t know what I think yet, we were rivals, and we were friends.’
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