MUMBAI: As someone with a deep interest in cultures from across the globe, "Junior MasterChef Australia" judge Jock Zonfrillo says he was looking forward to travel to India this year but the coronavirus pandemic put a break on his plans.
The celebrity chef, however, is hopeful about visiting the country in 2021 if the travel restrictions ease off.
"One of the main reasons to come there is to investigate cuisines of different regions like Kashmir, Punjab, Bengal, etc. I want to understand the differences in these regions and why it is like that, the flavours, etc."
"But COVID has put a stop to that. Hopefully, it is on cards for next year if travel restrictions ease off. While growing up in Scotland, which has a large Indian population I would end up eating a lot of Indian dishes. So, it is familiar to me," Zonfrillo told PTI in an interview.
Born to a Scottish mother and Italian father, the restaurateur said he had an insight into cultural differences from a young age but as he grew older, he realized there were more than the two cultures in the world.
And then began his search for finding new cultures for food, he added.
During his school days, Zonfrillo worked as a part-time dishwasher and at the age of 15, he left school to become a chef.
He has worked for world renowned chefs like Marco Pierre White and David Cavalier. Zonfrillo said food has helped him sail through troubled times.
"It has led me from Scotland to here in Australia and will go beyond. I am grateful to have found food. It has helped me understand and find a path out of those troubled times and move forward in life. It has given me a diverse group of experiences and friends. It has allowed me to travel the world, understand culture. All this is invaluable, it can't be learnt in a school," he said.
Zonfrillo said he is happy restaurants and cafes are opening up in Melbourne, where his reality cooking show "Junior MasterChef Australia" is being shot.
Under the guidance of Zonfrillo and his co-judges Melissa Leong and Andy Allen, the 14 little chefs-in-the-making have taken all by storm.
The show is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar Premium.
"It is a tough call and you do lose a very good cook, who had cooked fantastic throughout the season but choke out on the day. At the end of the day, it is competition. The worst dish goes home and we have to be honest," he said.
Leong, 38, said being a food and travel writer for a decade, the experience has given her the ground understanding of the restaurant industry. Prior to this, she has been a judge on a competitive cooking show called "The Chefs' Line".
She believes food has always been an integral part of one's life either in joyous or sad moments.
"Food is a powerful way to connect with people and it is something I realised very early and appreciate that food is my profession. I love food from around the world, you get to experience various cultures through food, even if you don't understand the language and customs," Leong said.