The culinary world is mourning the loss of one of its most beloved masters, chef Jock Zonfrillo, who died early Monday at age 46.
The “MasterChef Australia” host and judge was found dead by police in his Melbourne hotel room, the Australian broadcaster Network 10 said in a statement.
He was in town to launch a spinoff, “MasterChef Australia: Secrets & Surprises,” which was due to premiere the same day. Network 10 opted not to air the episode, which also featured British chef Jamie Oliver as a guest star.
Network 10 and collaborators were “deeply shocked and saddened at the sudden loss of Jock Zonfrillo, a beloved member of the MasterChef Australia family,” the station said on Instagram.
“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.”
Zonfrillo left behind his wife, Lauren Fried, and four children. Two were from previous marriages, and two he shared with Fried.
“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,” the family said in a statement.
Network 10 paid tribute to a star who was “determined and talented and with plenty of grit.”
Zonfrillo was born in 1976 in Glasgow to an Italian father and Scottish mother, and his “obsession with food” started early, the network said.
He apprenticed at The Turnberry Hotel at age 15 and moved on to high-profile restaurants, working in world-renowned restaurants with famous chefs around the globe. He went on to run three award-winning restaurants of his own, and started as a judge on “MasterChef Australia” in 2019.
Grief overflowed on social media from Oliver, fellow celeb chefs and others who knew Zonfrillo and his work.
“In total shock to hear of the sudden death of chef Jock Zonfrillo,” Oliver wrote on social media. “Had the best time working with him for this year’s MasterChef Australia. Jock was very generous with his time and spirit in the show and will be so very missed.”
“Saddened by the devastating news of Jock Zonfrillo’s passing,” wrote chef Gordon Ramsay. “I truly enjoyed the time we spent together on MasterChef in Australia.”
“My deepest, deepest sympathies and much love to Jock’s family and friends,” commented Nigella Lawson on Network 10′s Instagram statement. “How devastating. How unbearable. My heart goes out to you.”
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