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Network Ten coy on Zonfrillo's MasterChef role

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Network Ten has refused to confirm that controversial celebrity chef Jock Zonfrillo will return as a host of ratings hit MasterChef next year.

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Zonfrillo and fellow judges Melissa Leong and Andy Allen stepped into the roles vacated by the termination of long-time hosts George Calombaris, Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan last year, with their debut season a big success for Ten.

But Zonfrillo has also made headlines over the financial arrangements of his Orana Foundation charity, established with a $1.25 million contract from the former Weatherill Government, and InDaily’s revelations about the finances of his shortlived Mallozzi eatery.

InDaily revealed yesterday that a creditor had intervened in last week’s sale of his 4.23 hectare Summertown property, known as Caledonia.

At the time, InDaily asked Network Ten publicity to confirm Zonfrillo would return to front MasterChef beyond this year.

A publicity spokeswoman said the network had already announced he would take part on the forthcoming Junior MasterChef series, but declined repeated requests to confirm whether he would remain with the show beyond that, saying: “We don’t comment on contracts.”

Industry insiders have told InDaily it is “surprising and unusual” for the network not to endorse the existing judging line-up for 2021, given the show was a hit and has already been confirmed for another season, with contestant auditions advertised.

Zonfrillo’s spokeswoman did not respond to questions today about whether he expected to return to the show next year, or whether he was contracted to do so.

The future of Zonfrillo’s decorated Restaurant Orana remains clouded, with the upscale eatery closing its doors in March citing the coronavirus lockdown, and blaming “square meterage restrictions” – currently one person per two square metres in SA – for its continued closure.

A spokeswoman for Zonfrillo told InDaily yesterday he was “continuing to work through the options around reopening Orana”, but key staff – including restaurant manager Greta Wohlstadt and sommelier Kyle Poole – have moved on to other projects.

InDaily revealed yesterday that the ASX-listed Thorn Group had placed a caveat on the “whole of the land” since sold by Zonfrillo and his wife, prominent marketing strategist Lauren, which documents stated was in line with an “agreement in writing… wherein [Zonfrillo] agreed to charge their estate and interest in favour of the caveator dated 27 August 2017”.

A property caveat is a legal document lodged to provide notice of a legal claim to a property.

Thorn, which declined to comment, runs Thorn Business Finance and describes itself as a “diversified financial services organisation that provides alternate consumer and commercial leasing products and consumer and commercial financing solutions”.

It also runs Radio Rentals – which operates as RR [Rentlo Reinvented] in South Australia – describing itself as “one of Australia’s leading household essentials and technology leasing companies… giving customers affordable access to household essentials and technology”.

Of the Government’s funding for the Orana Foundation, designed to create a database of native foods, the Department of Primary Industries said the charity had “provided regular six-monthly milestone reports… as required by the deed, along with other updates in relation to the project” since it commenced in mid-2017.

“PIRSA are not releasing the milestone reports,” an agency spokesperson said.

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