“It was low for me, I was in a hole,” he said.
After being told that he would never work in another Michelin-starred restaurant again, Zonfrillo was determined to prove his ex-bosses wrong. He decided to go straight to the best restaurant in the UK to see if he could get a job.
“At that time, the best restaurant was the one Marco Pierre White was running at the Hyde Park Hotel,” Zonfrillo said. “It hadn’t got three Michelin stars yet, but everyone was talking about Marco. He was the new greatest guy in food globally. Everyone was talking about him.
“I knocked on the front door of Marco’s restaurant. It was in between lunch and dinner service and the last person I expected to open the door was him, but there he was.
“I was speechless,” Zonfrillo said. “He was already a legend in the industry by this stage. I couldn’t talk. I was just spluttering and stammering like a bloody idiot. I managed to say that I was there for a job and he said, ‘well you’d better come in’.”
Pierre White took Zonfrillo into his office and said, “so, what’s your story?”
“It was a moment I’ll never forget,” Zonfrillo said. “I had a choice. I could have lied about what happened in Chester or I could tell the truth. I chose to tell the truth and it was ruthless because there was every chance he was going to tell me to get out of there.”
“Marco’s like a psychologist,” Zonfrillo told news.com.au. “He’s got a way of creeping inside your brain in seconds. The only thing he said to me was, ‘how do you think your mother would feel about that?’
“I just started crying. I can’t describe the emotional effect that guy has on you.”
White then proceeded to call the executive chef at Zonfrillo’s former restaurant for a reference.
“The guy just went to town on me, saying, ‘He’s a drug addict, he’s a waste of space.’
“It was just horrifying … It was the worst experience. I was sobbing. There was no escape from it.
“Marco was super polite,” Zonfrillo said. “He thanked the guy and hung up and he looked me in the eye and after a big, long silence, he said, ‘I think you should come work for me.’ And that was it.”
However, Zonfrillo’s woes weren’t over just jet, with the star confessing that he was forced to sneak into the hotel’s changing rooms at night to sleep as he didn’t have enough money for his own place.
“We were working 18-hour days,” Zonfrillo told news.com.au. “I would leave with everyone else at the end of my shift and do a circuit around Hyde Park, then I would go back to the hotel and let myself in and sleep in the change rooms.
Three months in, a co-worker busted Zonfrillo sleeping in the change rooms and the teenager was convinced it would result in him getting fired.
“I got hauled into the office in the morning and Marco was like, ‘What are you doing?’” Zonfrillo said.
“I explained my situation. I didn’t get fired. Marco came back later in the day and he had arranged a bed for me at a youth hostel which was for hospitality workers under 21. I’d already put my name on the waiting list but I’d been told it was going to be six to nine months before a spot would be available, but Marco picked up the phone and worked his magic and got me a bed. It was amazing.”