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How Andy Allen and Melissa Leong feel about MasterChef, one year on from Jock Zonfrillo's death.

MasterChef Australia has long been considered the most wholesome show on network television, so when one of its judges, Jock Zonfrillo, suddenly passed just before the season 15 premiere in 2023, fans were left heartbroken.

The Scottish chef and restaurateur had an uncanny ability to connect with the contestants, but it was his relationship with his fellow judges that people still remember fondly.

Watch: The story behind Jock Zonfrillo’s gift to Brent Draper. Post continues below.

Video via Network Ten.

Andy Allen, Melissa Leong and Jock Zonfrillo were an inseparable trio, each asked to replace veteran judges Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston.

The three quickly became close, and their friendship extended far beyond what viewers saw on screen. 

In a tribute following Jock's death on April 30, 2023, Andy wrote: "What I didn't realise is how close [my wife] and I would become outside of the kitchen with you, Lauren and your kids.

"You’ve become such an inspirational and important part of our lives. Sure, you've taught me so much about food, but it's the lessons I learnt about what it means to be a great father, husband and friend that I’ll take away from our time together and will last forever."


Andy remembered Jock as a mentor to both himself and the MasterChef contestants.

"Thanks for making me constantly laugh and being there when I needed to cry. You really were the complete package mate and life will never be the same without you," he said.


Melissa shared similar sentiments, penning a statement about the impact Jock had on her life.

"Four years ago, the three of us stood on a precipice and jumped. 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 on Instagram.

"In that time, you showed me what true excellence looks like both in the kitchen and outside of it; your kindness and generosity, the many lives you’ve lived, the way you carried far more on your shoulders than most could ever know."


In October last year, Network Ten announced that while Andy would continue his hosting role on MasterChef Australia, Melissa would not be step back into her position.

"After an extremely difficult year in 2023, and upon reflection, the decision to return to the series is not one I took lightly," said Allen in a statement issued by Network Ten.

"But there is something special in the MasterChef Australia kitchen, and it feels right to come back to work with the amazing production team, and to play my role in seeing the contestants do as I have done," he added.

Melissa on the other hand, cited "scheduling conflicts" as the reason behind the decision.


Melissa remains an integral part of the Network Ten community, hosting new series Dessert Masters. While Andy has kicked off MasterChef Australia season 16 with new judges, Poh Ling Yeow, Jean-Christophe Novelli and Sofia Levin by his side. 

A year on from Jock's passing, both of them have opened up about how they feel about the series that made them household names.

Speaking to Hit Network's Carrie and Tommy, Andy said coming back to the show without Jock wasn't easy.

"It’s nearly a year. Sometimes it feels like yesterday and other times it feels like it was a long, long time ago. It was hard. It was really hard. I didn't actually know if I was going to do [MasterChef Australia] again. 

"It just felt so wrong to do it without him, because we just loved it so much together and walking back into that kitchen was huge. It was… there was just this weight of grief over me.


"I just didn’t know if I’d be able to get through it. I just didn't know if I'd be able to do it justice, to give the show what it needed because there was so much grief attached to that kitchen. But I think it only lasted until… it was a hard first scene. I’m literally the only person in that kitchen. Just myself, no contestants."

It was the people around him that encouraged Andy to return to the show.

"I spoke to Loz (Lauren), Jock’s wife. The people around me as well, my parents. They said it’s what he would have wanted. My only fear was that I couldn’t do it and I couldn’t be what they needed me to be."

Melissa on the other hand is pursuing new opportunities and is set to commentate at the UFC 305 at RAC Arena in Perth. Though, that doesn't mean she's not watching MasterChef Australia from afar.

"I reflect on the last four years of being host and judge of MasterChef with joy, with gratitude and with maximum respect," she told Perth Now

"I think about it every day as something that was a huge part of my life and continues to be a huge part of my life."

Feature Image: Instagram @fooderati.

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