New MasterChef Australia Judge Jock Zonfrillo is set to sue News Corp publication The Australian for defamation.
Zonfrillo has launched Federal Court action over an article and social media post written in August 2018, which he says accused him of supporting an Indigenous community to win an award.
The celebrity chef is claiming online and print article published on August 9 and 10 with the headline “Chef Jock Zonfrillo offered support, farm comes up empty” online, falsely alleged he visited the Emama Nguda Aboriginal Corporation in WA “a few months before his prestigious Basque win” and “offered to help” with their prawn farm.
In his statement, Zonfrillo said The Australian defamed him when it suggested he “dishonestly claimed” he would support an Indigenous-run prawn farm “in an effort” to increase his chances of winning the Basque Culinary World Prize.
Zonfrillo won the prize in 2018, which recognises chefs who use their culinary skills to boost social and economic development.
In the court claim, it says Zonfrillo’s lawyers wrote to the paper on August 12 and said he did not know about or visit the farm until August 2018, which is a month after he won the award.
The chef’s lawyers said he denied the claim and that the masthead made his suffering worse by not removing the article and post on Facebook.
Zonfrillo is seeking damages, including aggravated damages, interest and costs. He is also asking for the removal of the article and Facebook post.
The Australian has yet to file a defence.