MasterChef Australia: Search begins for Jock Zonfrillo’s replacement

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Network Ten is poised to begin the search for Jock Zonfrillo’s replacement on MasterChef Australia, with ‘every well-known chef’ a contender.

Insiders on the hit show say casting conversations have already begun after the beloved judge’s tragic death in the early hours of May 1, one day before the show’s 2023 premiere.

The insider described it as a ‘sombre process’ with everyone involved still grieving the enigmatic Scottish chef who joined the cast in 2019.

The 2024 season of MasterChef will soon enter pre-production, with the show set to begin filming in August after spin-off Dessert Masters wraps. 

It’s understood both well-known personalities and virtual unknowns are being considered for the role.

Network Ten is poised to begin the search for Jock Zonfrillo's replacement on MasterChef Australia, with 'every well-known chef' a contender. Pictured: Zonfrillo

Network Ten is poised to begin the search for Jock Zonfrillo’s replacement on MasterChef Australia, with ‘every well-known chef’ a contender. Pictured: Zonfrillo

Ultimately the decision will be based on chemistry, according to a production insider, with the new host needing to strike the right on-screen relationship with fellow judges Melissa Leong (left) and Andy Allen (centre)

Ultimately the decision will be based on chemistry, according to a production insider, with the new host needing to strike the right on-screen relationship with fellow judges Melissa Leong (left) and Andy Allen (centre)

Ultimately the decision will be based on chemistry, according to a production insider, with the new host needing to strike the right on-screen relationship with fellow judges Melissa Leong and Andy Allen.

‘That will be the main thing obviously because it was something that really earned Jock the position originally,’ a source told Daily Mail Australia.

‘You have to remember that when Jock was cast he was a dark horse… he was a renegade in the industry and he wasn’t what many expected in that role.

‘But his chemistry with the others was great. And the new host will need that more than anything.’

Daily Mail Australia has contacted Channel 10 for comment.

Meanwhile, casting speculation in both TV and food circles is rife with a number of names already being touted for the coveted role. 

MasterChef alum Dan Churchill (pictured) is believed to be on a short list of candidates

MasterChef alum Dan Churchill (pictured) is believed to be on a short list of candidates 

Josh Niland, who appeared on MasterChef as a guest chef in 2021, is a top contender

Josh Niland, who appeared on MasterChef as a guest chef in 2021, is a top contender

Sydney chef and cookbook author Danielle Alvarez (far right) is also believed to be in the mix

Sydney chef and cookbook author Danielle Alvarez (far right) is also believed to be in the mix

Leading the list is former MasterChef stars Dan Churchill and Hayden Quinn, as well as Vue De Monde up-and-comer Hugh Allen and seafood guru Josh Niland. 

Sydney chef and cookbook author Danielle Alvarez, Shell House director Joel Bickford, Italian maestro Alessandro Pavoni and Mimi’s head chef Jordan Toft are also believed to be on the shortlist. 

Another contender, Poh Ling Yeow, made a surprise return to the show on Monday night to give the season 15 contestants their very first Mystery Box.

Melbourne's Hugh Allen, who has previously appeared on MasterChef, is tipped as one of the possible replacements for Zonfrillo

Melbourne’s Hugh Allen, who has previously appeared on MasterChef, is tipped as one of the possible replacements for Zonfrillo

Another contender, Poh Ling Yeow (pictured), made a surprise return to the show on Monday night to give the season 15 contestants their very first Mystery Box

Another contender, Poh Ling Yeow (pictured), made a surprise return to the show on Monday night to give the season 15 contestants their very first Mystery Box

Colourful Sydney food icon Allessandro Pavoni is also in the running for the coveted gig

Colourful Sydney food icon Allessandro Pavoni is also in the running for the coveted gig

Allen, Leong and Zonfrillo replaced former judges Matt Preston, George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan in 2019 following their shock axing. 

Despite possessing much smaller public profiles than their predecessors, the newcomers became a hit with viewers and the show continued to dominate the ratings.

Leong, in particular, has emerged as a bonafide network star and a brand in her own right with lucrative partnerships with Visit Victoria, QT Hotels and Perrier-Jouet Champagne.

Melissa Leong has emerged as a bonafide network star and a brand in her own right

Melissa Leong has emerged as a bonafide network star and a brand in her own right

Almost a month in, the current season of MasterChef has been a hit for Ten with with the show regularly averaging 500,000 viewers and winning its time slot.

Zonfrillo died in his hotel room at Zagame’s House on Lygon Street in Carlton and was found by police at about 2am on Monday, May 1 – the same day Channel Ten was meant to premiere the fifteenth season of MasterChef Australia.

Police were responding to a welfare check following concerns from his wife Lauren Fried who was in Italy at the time with their son and daughter.

Zonfrillo is survived by his third wife, Lauren, and his four children: grown-up daughters Ava and Sophia, from his first two marriages, and six-year-old Alfie and two-year-old Isla, with Fried.

Jock Zonfrillo is pictured with his wife Lauren Fried

Jock Zonfrillo is pictured with his wife Lauren Fried



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