Drug addict to MasterChef Australia: Jock Zonfrillo's incredible journey

Drug addict to MasterChef Australia: Jock Zonfrillo's incredible journey

Once a homeless drug addict, Jock Zonfrillo has become the new face of widely popular cooking reality show "MasterChef Australia", all thanks to his passion for food, exceptional culinary skills and philosophy. He credits food for not only helping him kick his addiction but also turning his life around.

Born and raised in Scotland, Zonfrillo got addicted to heroin at 15. He was sacked from his job. In just two years, he was homeless, broke and looking for a job in the culinary industry. That's when he knocked at the door of the famous chef Marco Pierre-White, who hired him, and Zonfrillo started his second inning of his career and life.

"Unfortunately, drug addiction is a real thing and something that many people struggle from. I make no illusion that I'm the only person who struggled with drug addiction. I come from a place where drug addiction is very much the norm and many addicts can't cope unless there's something which is more compelling than the addiction of drugs. It is hard to overcome it and food for me was far more compelling than drugs," Zonfrillo told IANS.

"If it wasn't for food, I am afraid, that I wouldn't have been able to overcome that period in my life… Life would not be what I imagine now. I certainly credit food... It has played a huge part in saving me as a person and putting me on the right track because if it hadn't been for that there wouldn't be (anything) more compelling for me to leave that part of my history behind me," added the 43-year-old.

He continued: "In the case of any addiction, there has to be something more compelling than the addiction itself. For me, it was food. It was far more compelling for me to be attracted to in order to move away from that period in my life."

What's the biggest learning which you got from that period of your life?

"I really think support is the answer for a lot of stuff… (The kind of) Support is probably different for each individual. If somebody would have told me on some level that I understand you and support you then it would probably have made that part my life a lot easier," he said.

"When you are an addict, you become isolated, simply because you're an outcast. In this day and age, it is less like that because people are a little bit more accepting to people that have an addiction or trying to get over in addiction, but that was not the case in the 1990s...I think people who are going through that needs support."

Zonfrillo has attained celebrity chef status, and has a successful restaurant chain. He along with chef Andy Allen and food writer Melissa Leong will be replacing George Calombaris, Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan as judges of cooking reality show "MasterChef Australia". The show is aired in India on Star World.

"We are always very humbled and grateful to be asked to be up here on the show. I think being a part of the show is to be part of the community of hospitality and cooking here in Australia. We're a country of many cultures, and I think ‘MasterChef' exemplifies that very well," he said.

Source: IANS