Born in Scotland to an Italian and Scottish family, Jock Zonfrillo’s formative years were heavily influenced by his respective grandfathers. Both had a genuine love of nature and understanding of the land. His Scottish grandfather was a beef and arable farmer and his Neapolitan nonno brought with him from Italy a passion for superior quality ingredients and a joy of great tasting food. Unsurprisingly, the kitchen was a natural home for Zonfrillo and a place where – even from the very early stages of his career – he married both respect for produce with his craft.
Honing his skills in the great country house hotels of Scotland, Jock was inevitably attracted to the dynamic and competitive kitchens of London where he worked with many great chefs, including Marco Pierre White. At Restaurant Marco Pierre White (Knightsbridge), during that time, under such an iconic chef who demanded military precision from his team, Zonfrillo worked his way up the ranks, earning the respect of his peers. The London energy was indeed exciting, but the need to reconnect with ingredients directly at their source prevailed. Jock moved to Kent, the “Garden of England”, and worked with David Cavalier at Michelin starred Chapter One. In a bid to further expand his knowledge base and curious to experience new culinary cultures, Jock moved halfway around the world and spent a year in Australia at Sydney’s Restaurant 41. This brief sabbatical year made a huge impact on Zonfrillo, but he still returned to the UK as planned, again working for Marco Pierre White, this time at Les Saveurs. Jock left the Marco fold to join the opening team at The Pharmacy by artist Damien Hirst, a restaurant that captured the imagination of London and received international acclaim for its cutting edge cuisine. Again yearning to be in contact with nature, Jock opened a restaurant in a small boutique hotel on the spectacular Cornish coast, his last position in the UK.
The year spent in Sydney had truly made its mark.
In 2000 the opportunity to return to Australia as head chef of Restaurant 41 presented itself and Zonfrillo immediately took it; he had discovered his spiritual home in Australia and was captivated. Jock’s time in Sydney was followed by consultancy work before he moved to Adelaide as Executive Chef at Magill Estate Restaurant. He remains in Adelaide and is now chef/owner of Street and Orana restaurants, his first solo ventures.
From the moment he returned to Australia, Jock has been striving to identify a true taste of Australia through the culture of this incredible place. His curiosity for the land, the produce, the people, and the history of the country has resulted in over a decade of research and a quest to define a true Australian gastronomic identity. Outside of the kitchen, Jock has become instrumental in successfully reintroducing the recognised Longhorn breed of cattle back to Australia after many years of unsuccessful proliferation. He dives for scallops off Kangaroo Island for his restaurants, monitoring environmental changes and seasonal variations of the scallop breeding grounds. He explores regional Australian produce and celebrates it in his cooking, foraging primarily in the Adelaide hills but also throughout Australia. But above all, Jock Zonfrillo embraces and connects with the ancient culture of the Aboriginal people.
The Aboriginal philosophy to heal and be healed by the land and to always give back more than you take, strongly influences Jock’s own culinary philosophy. Understanding the nutritional and healing properties of the indigenous produce and respecting the produce’s relationship with the land and culture has created a broader context of food for Zonfrillo. Working with people who are custodians of the land rather than owners has inspired a new depth and dimension to Zonfrillo’s cuisine style. His cooking honours Australia’s food history, as he seeks to unify cultures through the use of indigenous ingredients and define Australia’s gastronomic identity today. Jock embraces all the elements of Australia, from ancient civilisations to the modern day, and in the process he has created a food philosophy and cuisine style that are uniquely his own.