Much-loved chef and TV personality Jock Zonfrillo has died, one day before the new season of Masterchef Australia was due to air. He was 46 years old.
The chef and restaurateur was instrumental in shaping Australia's interest in native ingredients, with the opening of his since-closed Adelaide restaurant Orana in 2013 and its not-for-profit research arm, Orana Foundation. He was an advocate, ambassador and researcher of Australia's finest ingredients.
Zonfrillo opened Orana in central Adelaide, without outside financial backing. His dogged exploration of native ingredients won him accolades the world over.
Writing about Zonfrillo's cooking in 2017, Gourmet Traveller published: "It's Australian food as we've never eaten before - confident, assured and original."
That same year, Orana became the first Adelaide restaurant in almost 20 years to win Gourmet Traveller's Restaurant of the Year, with judges declaring: "The sense of adventure and excitement is more powerful than ever. Wow-factor comes via superb balance and harmony, with ingredients that dazzle in the mouth... Seeking inspiration and knowledge through interacting with Aboriginal communities is central to Zonfrillo's mission, but he's determined to make it a two-way street".
Two years later, he won the Gourmet Traveller Sustainability & Innovation Award.
As a chef he also won several other accolades, including the prestigious Basque Culinary World Prize, before embarking on a successful career in television.
In 2020, he appeared alongside Andy Allen and Melissa Leong as the new hosts of Masterchef Australia which saw him become a much-loved household name.
Zonfrillo's family confirmed his death on Monday 1 May, saying "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".
"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," they said.
Fellow chefs, restaurateurs and Masterchef alumni have taken to Zonfrillo's Instagram to share their grief:
"I am speechless at the loss of a young man" and "sleep well my friend" – Colin Fassnidge.
"This is devastating." – Dan Hong.
"Sending love. Jock was phenomenal." – Sarah Tiong.
"You're a beautiful man Jock. Felt lucky you and your family came into our lives. Gone to[o] soon brother." – Dylan Alcott.
"Shocked and heartbroken. RIP Jock, you will be sorely missed. My condolences to your beautiful family." – Emelia Jackson.
"Holding you close to my heart, I'm so so sorry. He was so loved." – Silvia Colloca
Other to comment include Nadine Levy Redzepi, Rosheen Kaul, Reynold Poernomo, Brendan Pang, Minoli De Silva, and Khanh Ong, among many others.
In light of the sudden news, Masterchef Australia will not air this week with Channel 10 releasing a statement on Instagram: "Network 10 and Endemol Shine Australia are deeply shocked and saddened at the sudden loss of Jock Zonfrillo, a beloved member of the Masterchef Australia family.
"Jock's charisma, wicked sense of humour, generosity, passion and love for food and his family cannot be measured. He will be greatly missed."
Victorian police are not treating Zonfrillo's death as suspicious.