EXCLUSIVE: How MasterChef helped improve Jock Zonfrillo’s mental health and made him a better parent

''I've been able to enjoy being a father in a different way this time around.''
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Since joining MasterChef as a judge, Jock Zonfrillo has proved he’s someone who takes mental health seriously.

After all, the 45-year-old chef and TV presenter actions had had his own struggles with anxiety, stress and addiction.

But as much as he’s helped contestants on the show, Jock tells Now To Love that MasterChef helped his mental health and changed how he experiences fatherhood for the better.

Jock with his wife and their two children.

(Image: Instagram)

“I’ve been on MasterChef pretty much the whole of both of my younger kids’ lives, and it’s a very different experience for me because being in hospitality and a chef … hospitality workers have this really poor mental health for a number of different reasons,” the father-of-four shares.

“I was used to working every single Christmas, birthday, anniversary, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, New Year’s Eve. As hospitality workers, we allow everyone else to celebrate those days, and as a consequence, we miss out on those celebrations. We miss out on sports days and stuff like that.

“And I think this time around with kids, because I haven’t been in a kitchen and I’ve been on MasterChef, I’ve had nights off, and I’ve had weekends off. And so my mental health is greatly improved, and I’ve been able to enjoy being a father in a different way this time around.

“It’s been brilliant, but it’s also allowed me to identify and be able to talk about mental health as a father in a very different way. It has been really, really good.”

“I was used to working every single Christmas, birthday, anniversary, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, New Year’s Eve.”

(Image: Instagram)

Jock, who has two adult daughters, Ava and Sophia, from his first two marriages, shares Alfie, four, and Isla, 18 months with wife Lauren Fried.

Little Isla arrived during the first lockdown in 2020, but due to health guidelines, his eldest daughters weren’t allowed to see their newborn sister at the hospital.

“All these restrictions that made it really, really tough and not just for the birth of Isla, but also for my wife during the pregnancy, being in COVID for the whole time,” he remembers.

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However, an even bigger anxiety loomed throughout the pregnancy.

“The anxiety of ‘what happens if I [Lauren] get COVID when I’m pregnant, what happens if the baby gets COVID in hospital?’ There were all these questions that nobody really had the answer to.”

READ MORE: EXCLUSIVE: Jock Zonfrillo’s “hard to watch” MasterChef moment

Jock’s daughter Isla was born during the first lockdown in 2020.

(Image: Instagram)

But as Jock’s contestants can attest, support is the ultimate elixir during times of uncertainty and fear.

“The biggest thing in our situation and in any situation is having support. I think having that support group around you is vital, but more important than that is… you need to get good at having the little conversations, because then you never had to have the big ones.

“Get real familiar and real good at having the little conversations because then it doesn’t escalate and snowball into something that’s so big inside your brain that it just brings you down,” he says.

If you or someone you know has been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, help is always available. Call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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