Home Entertainment Melissa Leong thanks stand-in at event after she was forced to cancel after Jock Zonfrillo’s death

Melissa Leong thanks stand-in at event after she was forced to cancel after Jock Zonfrillo’s death

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Melissa Leong has thanked fellow celebrity chef Adam Liaw for filling in for her at an event at the Sydney Opera House after she forced to pull out following the death of her MasterChef Australia co-host Jock Zonfrillo.

Leong, 41, was scheduled to host a live Q&A with American cookbook writer Alison Roman on Tuesday, but it was announced last Thursday she would not be attending.

Replacing Leong was Liaw, the winner of MasterChef Australia season two and a popular presenter for SBS and the ABC.

Sharing a photo to Instagram from the event, which was taken by an attendee, Leong thanked the audience while acknowledging her absence.

‘To everyone who went to see the incredible @alisonroman in conversation with the legendary @adamliaw tonight at @sydneyoperahouse, thankyou for the love,’ she wrote alongside a photo of Liaw and Roman on stage.

Melissa Leong (pictured) has thanked fellow celebrity chef Adam Liaw for filling in for her at an event at the Sydney Opera House after she forced to pull out following the death of her MasterChef Australia co-host Jock Zonfrillo

Melissa Leong (pictured) has thanked fellow celebrity chef Adam Liaw for filling in for her at an event at the Sydney Opera House after she forced to pull out following the death of her MasterChef Australia co-host Jock Zonfrillo 

‘I can feel it from here. See you next time,’ she added.

Last week, a Sydney Opera House spokesperson sent an email to ticketholders stating that Leong had pulled out of the Q&A.

‘Following the sad news of the passing of her colleague and friend Jock Zonfrillo, Melissa Leong is no longer able to join Alison Roman in conversation on Tuesday, May 9,’ the statement read. 

Zonfrillo was found dead by police at a hotel in Melbourne’s inner-north at about 2am on Monday, May 1, the same day Channel Ten was meant to premiere the fifteenth season of MasterChef Australia.   

Leong, 41, was scheduled to host a live Q&A with American cookbook writer Alison Roman on Tuesday, but it was announced last Thursday she would not be attending. She was replaced by MasterChef Australia season two winner and SBS presenter Adam Liaw

Leong, 41, was scheduled to host a live Q&A with American cookbook writer Alison Roman on Tuesday, but it was announced last Thursday she would not be attending. She was replaced by MasterChef Australia season two winner and SBS presenter Adam Liaw

Last week, a Sydney Opera House spokesperson sent an email to ticketholders stating that Leong had pulled out of the Q&A

Last week, a Sydney Opera House spokesperson sent an email to ticketholders stating that Leong had pulled out of the Q&A 

In the wake of the tragic news, Leong and fellow MasterChef judge Andy Allen pulled out of all media appearances to promote the cooking show’s return.

The season premiere was rescheduled to Sunday, May 7.

Last Tuesday, Leong shared a heart-wrenching tribute to Zonfrillo, expressing her disbelief and sorrow at the tragic loss. 

In her post, Leong touched on how much Zonfrillo had altered her life after the two, alongside Andy Allen, replaced the hit cooking show’s previous judges in 2019.

‘Four years ago, the three of us stood on a precipice and jumped,’ Leong wrote.

In the wake of the tragic news, Leong and fellow MasterChef judge Andy Allen pulled out of all media appearances to promote the cooking show's return. Pictured (l-r): Gordon Ramsay, Andy Allen, Melissa Leong and the late Jock Zonfrillo

In the wake of the tragic news, Leong and fellow MasterChef judge Andy Allen pulled out of all media appearances to promote the cooking show’s return. Pictured (l-r): Gordon Ramsay, Andy Allen, Melissa Leong and the late Jock Zonfrillo

‘I could never have guessed how much of an impact your arrival in my life would have, or that we would be saying goodbye to you so soon. You were always supposed to be the bulletproof one who outlived us all,’ she wrote.

She then paid tribute to her co-host pushing her to strive for excellence ‘both in the kitchen and outside of it.’ 

‘Thank you for challenging me daily, for making me better, my work buddy and friend, purveyor of excellent morning coffees, hater of pears, okra and nasturtiums,’ she continued.

‘This all feels too raw too process still, I suspect it will for some time. Such is the impact of a life lived so large, with so much levity and entirely on your own terms.

‘My heart goes out to your family, who were and are your life. A wee dram for you today, and always.’

Zonfrillo was found dead by police at a hotel in Melbourne 's inner-north at about 2am on Monday, the same day Channel 10 was meant to premiere the fifteenth season of MasterChef Australia

Zonfrillo was found dead by police at a hotel in Melbourne ‘s inner-north at about 2am on Monday, the same day Channel 10 was meant to premiere the fifteenth season of MasterChef Australia

On Tuesday afternoon Leong shared a heart-wrenching tribute to Zonfrillo, expressing her disbelief and sorrow at the tragic loss

On Tuesday afternoon Leong shared a heart-wrenching tribute to Zonfrillo, expressing her disbelief and sorrow at the tragic loss 

Zonfrillo is survived by his third wife, Lauren Fried, 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.

Zonfrillo is believed to have died of natural causes and nothing unusual or suspicious was discovered in the hotel room where he was found dead, Daily Mail Australia understands.

The MasterChef star was found dead by police at Zagame’s House hotel in Melbourne at about 2am on Monday, just metres away from his former inner-city home in Carlton.

The Glasgow-born chef had left his family behind in Italy, where they had recently emigrated, to return to Australia for the launch of the new season of the hit cooking show.

Daily Mail Australia can reveal that when the police entered the hotel room to conduct a welfare check, officers believed that Zonfrillo had died of natural causes and didn’t find anything that suggested otherwise.

There was also no drug paraphernalia found in the hotel room, sources said.

It will now be for the Coroner to determine the celebrity chef’s specific cause of death.

Leong, Zonfrillo and Andy Allen had taken over as judges of the show in 2019 after the former hosts, Matt Preston, George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan had left

Leong, Zonfrillo and Andy Allen had taken over as judges of the show in 2019 after the former hosts, Matt Preston, George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan had left

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