Jock Zonfrillo on what anchored him through the ‘chaotic and manic’ trials of his life

The MasterChef judge was extremely transparent about his mental health struggles.
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Content Warning: This article makes reference to drug addiction and mental health and may be distressing to some.

Jock Zonfrillo was known for his passion and persistent attitude. Tragically passing on April 30 2023, he will be remembered for his ongoing tenacity and eagerness to help others in similar situations.

WATCH BELOW: MasterChef judge Jock Zonfrillo explains why he carries worry beads

From recovering from a drug addiction, to forging a name for himself in the food industry, Jock had certainly been tested time and time again over the years.

And throughout it all, the MasterChef judge was always open to help others.

One of those ways was remaining open and honest. He shared that carrying a set of worry beads with him at all times, which started after Nicola Formby, the wife of his late friend Adrian Gill, gifted him a pair after her husband died, and it stuck with him ever since.

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Jock was rarely seen without a pair of worry beads in his hands. (Credit: Ten)

“I had them in my pocket, and then I just started carrying them – I started using them. And I was like actually this works for me, and then that was it really. I always had them,” he tells New Idea.

The beads quickly became a talking point when fans started to notice them while watching him on MasterChef, but Jock revealed that from the production side of things, people didn’t really know what to think of it at the start.

In fact, the beads became somewhat of a nuisance, where Jock was told that “the bead things” were a bit noisy, and they were causing audio problems.

“I still had them, they were in my pocket a lot, sometimes they were in my hand, but the camera certainly never focused on them at all,” he said.

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“I had them in my pocket, and then I just started carrying them I started using them,” Jock says of his famous worry beads. (Credit: Ten)

But then COVID happened, and Jock said his anxiety levels went “through the roof”, because he had Restaurant Orana in Adelaide to worry about, and his wife was pregnant with their second child together.

“It was a troubling time for everybody, and certainly for me, and then I just started having [the beads] in my hand the whole time,” he said.

That’s when Jock told the audio department that they needed to find a solution so that he could use the beads during filming, to help ease his anxiety.

“Now they’ve allowed me to be me and use them which is great because it helps a lot,” he said.

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Jock said spending quality time with his family helped ease his anxiety. (Credit: Instagram)

Outside of the studio, Jock said that nothing dials back his anxiety like spending quality time with his family.

“Rolling around in the carpet, playing with LEGO or cars with the kids or whatever – that for me definitely reduces my anxiety,” he said.

“I think it’s a super effective tool and I don’t know if that’s because you feel more love and everything at the time and that’s what helps.”

Jock shared two children with his wife Lauren Fried, a five-year-old son Alfie and a two-year daughter called Isla.

The 46-year-old was also the father to two teenage girls, Ava and Sophia, from his first two marriages.

The celebrity chef admitted to our sister publication Now to Love in 2022 that being on MasterChef had given him a new lease on life. 

“Since 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.”

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Food also played a big part in Jock’s life. (Credit: Ten)

Reflecting back on his life and everything he’s been through, Jock’s family was always at the forefront of his mind. This is something he considered when looking after a family of his own.

“There’s no question, it’s been tough. I’ve had those extreme highs and extreme lows in my life as well as in the kitchen,” he explained.

He added that despite his best efforts to “ruin my life” outside of the kitchen, he was fortunate enough to have had both mentors and kitchens to direct his career and keep it really focused.

“Food is like an anchor for me, it’s always been there so no matter how tough everything got outside of the kitchen and in my life and how chaotic and manic and the pitfalls.

“I’ve always had that food to draw me back to real life. So I’m super lucky to have found food really.”

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Jock highlighted the use of native Australian ingredients on MasterChef and in his everyday life. (Credit: Ten)

Jock’s relationship with food evolved over the last few decades, especially once he started to go out to communities in Australia, which also changed him as a person over time.

“It just changed my outlook, it changed the way I thought about myself and people and the country and culture,” he said.

Working with native Australian ingredients is something Jock always tried to bring a spotlight to, and it’s something that has been highlighted on MasterChef.

If you or someone you know is struggling, help is always available.

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Reach Out Australia: 1800 RESPECT

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