Jock Zonfrillo Depression

Jock Zonfrillo had a large impact on the culinary world. Beyond his achievements in the kitchen, Zonfrillo’s openness about his struggles with addiction, depression, and anxiety shone a light on what most people hide – their struggles – and what most people need: support, encouragement, and acceptance.

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Who is Jock Zonfrillo?

Barry “Jock” Zonfrillo was a celebrated chef, restaurateur, and TV personality. He was best known for his role as a judge on MasterChef Australia. He was also the founder of The Orana Foundation, dedicated to preserving and celebrating Indigenous Australian cuisine.

man cooking

From Addict to Celebrated Chef: Jock Zonfrillo’s Journey

Jock Zonfrillo was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on August 4, 1976. At the age of 12, he started washing dishes in a restaurant but was quickly promoted when one of the chefs had a motorcycle accident.

This kickstarted his love for cooking, and he left school at the age of 15 to start an apprenticeship in the kitchens of a golf resort. He won the coveted title of Young Scottish Chef of the Year at age 16, and he took his first job at a one-Michelin-star restaurant.

While he was rising as a young chef, Zonfrillo was also taking drugs, including cocaine and heroin, which became his drug of choice. Over the next 6 years, he hopped from restaurant to restaurant in the UK and Australia, before finally deciding to make the move to Australia.

The Turning Point: Moving to Australia

In 2000, Zonfrillo decided to relocate to Australia permanently. Around this time, he also gave up heroin, going “cold turkey”. He was appointed head chef at Restaurant 41 in Sydney, but his time there was short –he was fired in 2002 after setting fire to an apprentice chef’s pants, allegedly for working too slowly.

Zonfrillo spent the next decade importing and selling kitchen equipment, consulting, and working brief stints at restaurants. In 2013, he opened Orana, an eatery specialising in dishes made with Indigenous Australian ingredients and cooking methods. This was followed by the Orana Foundation in 2016, an organisation dedicated to preserving the ingredients and culinary methods of Indigenous Australians.

Awards came thick and fast for Zonfrillo in the next few years.

  • 2017: The Orana Foundation receives The Good Food Guide “Food for Good Award”
  • 2017: Orana named Restaurant of the Year 2018
  • 2017: Zonfrillo named Australia’s Hottest Chef 2018
  • 2018: Orana named Restaurant of the Year 2019
  • 2018: Orana given 3 hats in the 2019 Chef Hat Awards
  • 2019: Orana named Restaurant of the Year 2020
  • 2019: Orana given 3 hats in the 2020 Chef Hat Awards

During the same period, Zonfrillo was becoming a more prominent figure. He hosted TV show Nomad Chef in 2014, Restaurant Revolution in 2015, and co-hosted Chef Exchange in 2016. In 2019, he landed his most notable gig – a judge on MasterChef Australia.

Jock Zonfrillo’s Depression Struggle

Jock’s struggle with anxiety became public knowledge during his MasterChef stint. Viewers noticed him with a set of beads –his worry beads, which he used as a tool to alleviate anxiety whenever he started feeling overwhelmed.

The chef took to social media to explain why he carried the “Jock Zonfrillo bracelet”. From there, he became a vocal advocate for mental health, opening up about anxiety and depression stemming from his previous addiction issues, divorces, and the stress of the fast-paced restaurant world.

Adding to Zonfrillo’s mental health battle, his beloved Orana closed in March 2020, in piles of debt that reportedly led to Zonfrillo having to sell his family home.

The MasterChef judge went quiet for a while after, surfacing again in 2021 with two new developments: his memoir, Last Shot, and his own line of Jock Zonfrillo beads, branded as Caim Worry Beads.

caim worry beads

A little less than 2 years later, the MasterChef legend was found deceased in his hotel room. Did Jock Zonfrillo’s depression and anxiety have something to do with it? With investigations still ongoing, it’s unlikely we’ll ever know for sure.

The Importance of Mental Health Awareness

While Jock Zonfrillo’s depression may have contributed to his death, he left behind a legacy of openness, advocacy, and breaking the stigmas associated with mental health.

His candour about his mental health journey sparked a crucial conversation about the prevalence of depression, particularly in high-pressure industries like the culinary world. Zonfrillo made it okay to not be okay … Because he was proof that anxiety and depression can happen to anyone, regardless of their “success” in life.

Jock made it “cool” to carry worry beads or similar tools for soothing anxiety. He made it okay to be vulnerable, to be honest, and to not have to be strong all the time. With a history as varied and troublesome as his was, Zonfrillo also became a pillar of inspiration – not just for chefs, but for people across the world hoping for a better future.

Don’t Worry, Get Help

It’s people like Jock Zonfrillo who take the stigma out of mental health struggles. If it can happen to someone like him – passionate, creative, talented, and strong enough to overcome addiction and make a name for himself – then it’s less shameful if it happens to us regular people.

Jock Zonfrillo’s depression and anxiety may have become too much for him in the end. Or perhaps he continued to hold his own power and something else led to his death –we may never know.

But his struggles have left an undeniable mark on the mental health field and make it easier and more acceptable for everyone to get the help they need. If you’re worried about your own mental health, please seek help!

TMS therapy is non-invasive and could be the most effective drug-free depression treatment available. It’s FDA-approved, Medicare-covered, and backed by 35 years of scientific research and evidence. Get in touch today and let’s take this journey to a depression-free life together.

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Dr Shanek Wick – Author Bio

Dr. Shanek Wick, a distinguished Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, specialises in holistic mental health care with a focus on interventional psychiatry, neurostimulation, and addiction.

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