EXCLUSIVE: Jock Zonfrillo on mental health advocacy

The TV chef was a strong mental health advocate.
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Content Warning: This article makes reference to mental health issues and may be distressing to some readers.

Jock Zonfrillo was a strong mental health advocate. Prior to his tragic passing on April 30 2023, he remained a strong voice in and out of the kitchen.

WATCH: Brent leaves MasterChef 2021 for his mental health

Recalling the moment Brent Draper dramatically raised his hand and decided to leave MasterChef 2021 for his mental health, Jock Zonfrillo revealed exclusively to New Idea, that it was a huge move for the production team to allow the moment to hit Aussie TVs in its raw, unedited form.

“It was such an amazing thing for the producers not to cut that all out or turn it into something that it shouldn’t be. And it was just brutally honest, and it was hard to watch,” Jock said.

“I’ve got a frog in my throat just talking about it because I was so proud of him, as a bloke … there was nothing scripted. He just stuck his hand up and said, ‘I’m in a bad place. I’m not feeling okay. And I can’t cook anymore.’”

Jock stands with Andy Allen and Brent during a MasterChef challenge. (Credit: Ten)

Having been through his own share of mental health battles, Jock knew exactly where Brent was coming from.

“We had a moment where I just spoke to him, bloke to bloke, and I was able to identify with him in a way that perhaps Andy [Allen] and Melissa [Leong] couldn’t, because of my struggles with mental health,” he recalled.

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“It was a poignant moment for me and Australian television, because I think it was the first time that something like that really happened on non-scripted television… It was a moment where it was alright for a bloke to put his hand up and go, ‘I’m not alright’.”

Jock Zonfrillo on MasterChef. (Credit: Instagram)

Jock revealed that he shared a special connection with the many cooks who come through the famous kitchen with their own battles.

Jock also celebrated Julie Goodwin for her open approach to mental health advocacy. (Credit: Ten)

Jock shared his support of contestant Julie Goodwin and her openness about mental health on the show.

“She’s had a fair share of mental health troubles and still does and she’s incredibly brave coming back on the show. She’s even braver being able to talk about it in the way she does and she’s such a brilliant advocate for mental health ,” said the judge.

Like him, many of the MasterChef stars chose to speak up about their struggles in a bid to change the narrative around mental health in Australia.

Jock added: “Sometimes having people like Julie, or myself, or Brent… talk about it puts it into perspective in a different way, where people that are struggling can see a perspective that they relate to and it can help them.”

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 or visit their website.

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