He’s been judging MasterChef Australia for two years now, and Chef Jock Zonfrillo has become a fast fan-favourite thanks to his kind nature and captivating Scottish accent.
Having joined food writer and editor Melissa Leong and Three Blue Ducks co-owner Andy Allen in taking over hosting duties in 2020, Zonfrillo brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to the role along with his now-famous worry beads.
Zonfrillo is of Scottish and Italian descent and developed a love of cooking at the age of 11 when he began working in kitchens as a dish hand. Being one of those lucky people who knew what they wanted to do from an early age, the food enthusiast left school at 15 and began his apprenticeship at The Turnberry Hotel in Scotland. Impressively, he became a head chef at the age of just 22.
In 2000, Europe’s loss was our gain as Zonfrillo moved to Australia to take over the head chef position at the now-closed Forty-One which was located on the top floor of Chifley Tower in Sydney.
The chef and TV host has enjoyed his fair share of acclaim with his Adelaide restaurant Orana being named the best in Australia in the 2019 Good Food Guide and Australia’s 2018 Restaurant of the Year by Gourmet Traveller Magazine. In addition to serving up delicious dishes, Zonfrillo was also praised for his philanthropy having created The Orana Foundation to preserve the sophisticated cooking techniques and ingredients of First Australians.
While the beloved MasterChef judge has experienced great turmoil in his life including a crippling heroin addiction, bankruptcy in 2007 and divorces from his first two wives, things are definitely looking up for Zonfrillo who is now married to businesswoman Lauren Fried, who you might recognise from ABC’s Gruen.
In a 2018 interview with Good Food, Zonfrillo confessed that he credits cooking with saving his life.
“I’ve always said if it wasn’t for food I would have died,” he told the publication.
“If I hadn’t found my career path, I would have just been another statistic. As well as being a thankless drug, the only thing that will stop you from doing heroin is something that’s more compelling than heroin. And when you’re an addict, there’s very little that’s more compelling than doing that drug. Luckily for me, I somehow fluked upon cooking.”
In early 2021, publishing giant Simon and Schuster acquired Zonfrillo’s autobiography, which speaks in detail about his life and career including his experience with homelessness.
In addition to being a chef, TV host, philanthropist, entrepreneur and now memoirist, Zonfrillo is also a father of four. He has two teenage daughters Ava and Sophia from previous relationships and two children, Alfie and Isla with Fried.
As for those worry beads he can always be seen playing with? The chef has previously explained their significance saying, “I’ve got lots of different types of worry beads and when I’m feeling anxious or a little bit stressed, basically I worry. So I flick through them … and the more anxious … I get, the faster I do it.”