Revealed: Zonfrillo’s kitchen prank that bankrupted him
Celebrity chef Jock Zonfrillo was made bankrupt by an apprentice chef who sued him after he was set alight in a kitchen, court documents have revealed.
The MasterChef judge was working under the name of Barry Zonfrillo when the incident occurred at Sydney's award-winning restaurant Forty One.
Former Gosford resident Martin Krammer took legal action against Zonfrillo for setting his pants on fire in 2002, resulting in $70,000 damages being awarded by a judge.
Scottish-born Zonfrillo failed to pay the damages, prompting Mr Krammer to obtain a bankruptcy order against him in the Federal Magistrates Court.
Zonfrillo subsequently changed his name to Jock and moved to South Australia, where he later worked at the Magill Estate restaurant before establishing Restaurant Orana and Bistro Blackwood.
Creditors are due to meet on Monday to decide whether to accept a $101,000 settlement offer from Zonfrillo and his wife, Lauren, or put two companies which operated the restaurants - The Living Room Bar Pty Ltd and Blackwood Bistro Pty Ltd - into liquidation.
The couple moved to Melbourne earlier this year after selling their property in the Adelaide Hills in January for $1.2 million.
Zonfrillo has spent the past six months working for Channel 10 as one of three judges on MasterChef.
In a sworn affidavit lodged with the NSW District Court, Mr Krammer said he was 18 when he was employed in the kitchen at Forty One on August 21, 2002.
"I was working with a Barry Zonfrillo," he said.
"Barry Zonfrillo was always known as Jock Zonfrillo in the restaurant. Jock Zonfrillo was in charge of the restaurant that night."
Mr Krammer said he was standing at a bench "working in pastry" when Zonfrillo picked up a small copper saucepan.
"I turned and saw him walking away," he said.
"I immediately felt warmth in my groin and realised Jock had put some lighter fluid from the plate warmer on me.
"Seconds later I felt intense heat in my groin and legs."
Mr Krammer said he looked down and his pants were on fire.
"I tried to take my pants off but the buttons were too tight," he said.
"I started frantically patting my buttocks with my hands to try to put the flames out,
"While I was doing this, some of the flammable gel got on my hands, especially my left hand.
"I looked at my left hand and was horrified to see it was also alight.
"The pain was intense."
Mr Krammer said in his affidavit he was trying extinguish the flames under running cold water when he heard Zonfrillo say to other staff: "Look, Martin's on fire".
"I was disturbed no-one came to help," he said.
"There were at least six or seven staff present, who all just stood around watching."
Mr Krammer said he was "in shock and intense pain" when he went to the restaurant's change rooms to take off "the remains of my chef's pants".
"I washed my hands and noticed severe burns on the back of my left hand," he said.
"Mr Zonfrillo came in a few minutes later and apologised.
"He said words to the effect: 'Sorry mate, this was a joke gone wrong. I've done it before and people just take their pants off'."
Mr Krammer said Zonfrillo got some burn cream from a first aid box.
"By this stage, the pain was so intense I was in tears," he said.
"Mr Zonfrillo put some burn cream on my left hand, put a latex glove on me and said words to the effect: 'You should go back to work now'."
Mr Krammer said he put on a new pair of chef's pants and tried to resume working but was in too much pain.
"Eventually Jock Zonfrillo told me to go home," he said.
Mr Krammer said he caught a train to a railway station where he met his parents who took him to hospital.
"My left hand was cleaned up and rebandaged and I was given Panadeine Forte," he said.
"The next day my hand was still painful so I went to see my GP who gave me a sick certificate."
Mr Krammer said he remained off work and received workers' compensation payments for three months before finding a new job at another restaurant.
His hand continued to cause him pain, prompting him to seek $2000 in damages from Zonfrillo.
In his statement of claim, Mr Krammer's lawyers said Zonfrillo "placed a spoon which had been dipped in lighter fluid between his legs and then set alight, thereby setting the plaintiff alight".
A doctor who wrote a report, John Davis, said Mr Krammer told him other kitchen staff "apparently thought that this was some type of fun".
"He was not assisted by anyone to put out the fire," he said.
Dr Davis found Mr Krammer suffered "extensive burns to his left hand as a result of a practical joke in the kitchen of Forty One restaurant".
The medical report and other evidence resulted in a judgment awarding $67,487.27 in damages to Mr Krammer in the NSW District Court on May 1, 2006.
On July 21, 2006, the Federal Magistrates Court issued a bankruptcy notice against Zonfrillo for $75,940.74, which included $8453.47 in interest.
Mr Krammer then obtained a sequestration order against Zonfrillo in the Federal Magistrates Court on May 11, 2007, declaring him bankrupt, after he failed to pay the damages and interest.
Mr Krammer, a married 36-year-old father who lives overseas, declined to comment while Zonfrillo did not respond to requests for comment.
Originally published as Revealed: Zonfrillo's kitchen prank that bankrupted him