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'Why I just can't watch this season of MasterChef.'

"Turn it off, please," I said to my partner on Sunday night, an hour into MasterChef

Just a week earlier, I'd excitedly reminded him to be home in time for the first episode.

And just a few hours after that, I'd called to tell him beloved judge Jock Zonfrillo had died.

The start of the cooler months has people looking forward to different things – a holiday they can count down the days to, or Autumn/Winter fashion.

In our house, it's knowing MasterChef is about to start.

Before 2020, we didn't really watch the show. Like others, we saw the first season with Julie Goodwin and Poh Ling Yeow, but after that, it sort of fell off our radar.

The combination of perfect timing (a global pandemic, etc) and three new judges put it back on it.

Jock was witty and charming but also deeply caring and vulnerable. He was an entertainer, who made you smile every time he "gave it up for" whichever contestant was going home.

Melissa was confident and warm. She was the kind of person you wanted to be – and dress – more like.

Andy was a reminder that MasterChef could take you places. He was also just a really nice bloke and someone you'd imagine was exactly the same off-camera as he was on. 

The three of them were the perfect balance; and whilst they didn't know us, we felt like we knew them. 


They had me using the word "umami" when describing food.

They made me consider buying a hibachi grill for my kitchen. 

They taught me how to cook.

Image: Supplied/Charlotte Begg.

Professionally, Jock Zonfrillo was my first celebrity interview. He couldn't have been kinder and calmed my nerves immediately.


I later got the opportunity to cook with him at a MasterChef media event in 2022. He was the same as I remembered. Just as warm and charismatic.

The news of his passing has affected many of us deeply, myself included. 

I was in shock for days – completely unable to process it. He's on our screens, on billboards and on the sides of buses, how can he be gone?

A week on, and I'm still sad, mourning a person I barely knew, but feel as though I did. 

Image: Supplied/Charlotte Begg.


Much like Michaela Fox wrote when discussing the complexity of this type of grieving, I don't feel entitled to be upset about his death.

Only the people who properly knew him should be allowed to feel that way.

When Channel 10 announced that MasterChef would air from Sunday night, following a special episode of The Project in tribute to Jock, I had every intention of watching both.

I sat through celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay and Marco Pierre White speaking about the 46-year-old, as well as his co-host Andy Allen, who'd had lunch with him the day before his death.

"We ordered the whole menu. It was a good catch-up about what we’d been doing, what we were excited about," Andy told The Project's Sarah Harris.

"He was in such good spirits, he was so excited about the show launching."

Andy said he plans to watch the new season but that it would be "hard".

"I've told myself that I will watch it, he'd want that... And it's going to be hard to, don't get me wrong, but it's not about me, it's about him. This is him doing, right now, what he's best at."

During the tribute, Gordon Ramsay, who worked with Zonfrillo in the UK in the '90s, broke down in tears.


Marco Pierre White described him as "gifted" and "intelligent", and said something that resonated with me the most.

"He lives within us – and everybody who watches that show, a little piece of him will be instilled in them," he said.

When the tribute ended, I pulled myself together to watch MasterChef.

"It's what Jock would have wanted," I told myself. "For Australians to remember him doing what he does best."

I had to turn it off an hour in. 

It was like something didn't sit right in my gut, and I couldn't watch this season just yet, knowing it would be his last.

MasterChef became a safe place when the world was in turmoil. 

Jock, Melissa and Andy strangely felt like friends when we couldn't leave our houses. 

I looked forward to it every year.

At this moment in time, I'm still grieving the loss of my friend on my TV screen, and I'm not ready to watch him just yet.

There's a good chance that will change in time – I want to watch this season of MasterChef for the same reason Andy Allen said he will.

But not just yet.

Feature image: Instagram/@jamieoliver

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