Masterchef

From homeless drug addict to the country's best chef: MasterChef judge Jock Zonfrillo's incredible life story

''I'm not proud of it at all. It's embarrassing.''

By Rebecca Sullivan
MasterChef fans have fallen in love with the show's suave, handsome new Scottish judge Jock Zonfrillo.
But while the three-piece suit-wearing restauranteur is enjoying a wonderful career renaissance right now, life hasn't always been smooth-sailing for the 43-year-old.
He's battled with drug addiction, homelessness, unemployment and chaos in his personal life, too.
While he's "not proud" of his past, Jock's managed to pull himself out of his lowest lows, and build himself - and his business - back up again.
Jock Zonfrillo has quickly become a fan favourite on MasterChef. Image: Channel 10

Inside his teenage years as a drug addict

He's always in high spirits in the MasterChef kitchen, pushing the cooks to their limits with his wealth of knowledge and experience.
But by the age of 15, Jock was battling a terrifying addiction to heroin.
Fired from his job at a Michelin star restaurant in Chester, England, when he was just a teenager, Jock made his way to London and found himself in front of MasterChef star Marco Pierre White looking for a job.
Jock doesn't know what Marco saw in him, but he took a chance and gave him a job at his world-famous Hyde Park Hotel.
"I've always said, 'If it wasn't for food, I would've died.' 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," Jock says.
Despite the dream job, Jock reveals he was broke and homeless at the time and forced to sleep in the restaurant changing rooms, where he was caught out by Marco.
"Marco was aware of my situation and the battles I had personally, but he had the ability to put that aside and take you at face value as a chef, and I couldn't be more thankful."
Jock says he isn't proud of his drug use - but he's put it behind him now. Image: Channel 10
While he's embarrassed about this time in his life, he's refreshingly open about his experiences.
"I'm not proud of it at all," he told news.com.au recently of his drug use.
"It's embarrassing and it's embarrassing for my parents. But I'm thankful to have been able to come through the other side of that and I'm thankful for all the people who helped me at the right moments."
He says if it weren't for Marco, he would be "in a pine box or behind bars".
Jock with his fellow MasterChef judges Melissa Yeong and Andy Lee. Image: Channel 10
Andy, Melissa and Jock have managed to win over fans who were left disappointed after the departure of the old judges. Image: Channel 10

Now he runs the hottest restaurant in Adelaide

When Jock first moved to Sydney, he decided to turn over a new leaf and quit his drug habit. He shot up his last dose of heroin at Heathrow Airport in 1999 and never touched it again.
He spent a huge amount of time in local Indigenous communities, learning about native ingredients, which has informed much of his cooking today.
He worked at Sydney restaurant Forty One, then at Penfolds Magill Estate, because starting up Restaurant Orana (which means "welcome) in Adelaide in 2013.
At first, it was a financial disaster. The business lost $700,000 in its first year and Jock had his giant debt spread across 23 credit cards.
But after several years of hard work, the business started to break even.
For the past three years - in 2017, 2018 and 2019, Restaurant Orana has been named Restaurant of the Year.
Jock was named Australia's Hottest Chef by The Australian in 2018 and that same year he also won the prestigious Basque Culinary World Prize.
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And he's married to the love of his life

Jock and Lauren pictured on their wedding day. Image: Instagram
Jock is the first to admit that his previous drug use, combined with the antisocial hours and hospitality industry's intense culture, had a significant impact on his personal relationships.
"Two divorces, a handful of friends because you don't have the time to spend with them, so therefore you can count your close friends on one hand, and a deep mistrust of most people," he told the Adelaide Advertiser in 2014, reflecting on his time in the industry.
"That's what you're left with at the end of the day. Is it really that glamorous after all? I don't think so.''
But now Jock is married to his third wife Lauren - they tied the knot on New Year's Day 2017 - and they have a son together, Alfie. Lauren is also currently pregnant with the couple's second child.
Jock also has two daughters from his first two marriages.
Jock and his older daughter. Image: Instagram
Jock messing about with his two daughters. Image: Instagram

But he's currently separated from his wife, because of the coronavirus

Jock posted this lovely photo of his wife Lauren on International Women's Day. Image: Instagram
Jock has been forced to close Orana's door indefinitely in the wake of the coronavirus.
He's currently in Melbourne still filming MasterChef, but his wife is isolating in Adelaide.
Since Lauren is pregnant, he's been advised to stay in Melbourne due to the risk of COVID-19.
However he's still got his son Alfie to keep him company - the pair have been spending some lovely father-son bonding time together in the park.
"Who doesn't love this late afternoon autumn sun? I'm loving Melbourne this time of year and these special moments with my wee man in the park," Mark wrote on Instagram.
Cute!
Jock's wife Lauren and their son Alfie. Image: Instagram