Gino D'Acampo interview
The Naples-born Gino D'Acampo didn't always want to be a chef; when he was nine it was the professionalism of a dentist that appealed to him: "They had white coats and I thought they were cool." Luckily, by the time he was 13 he'd worked out he'd still get a white coat if he followed in his grandfather's footsteps and became a chef, and that making people happy by cooking for them was "much cooler". He promptly enrolled in Luigi de Medici Catering College and he hasn't looked back since. Thanks to receiving a staunchly traditional Italian culinary education, Gino has stayed unfalteringly loyal to the way he was taught and has forged a career for himself as an on-screen authority on Italian food. He genuinely believes that there's very little that a good plate of pasta can't solve, even prescribing it for those in search of a January detox after a turkey-fuelled festive period, questionably declaring: "Good pasta and good wine is how you're going to get in shape straight away - just don't have too much!"
Aside from a weekly radio show on LBC every Sunday, and a fourth cook book, Pasta, currently flying off the shelves (his first book, Fantastico!, won the Gourmand World Cookbook Award for Best Italian Cookbook and Buonissimo! and The I Diet were both bestsellers), the thing that Gino's most animated about at the moment is his iPhone app. Launched in the UK last Christmas, and now available in America too, the app is aptly named Eating Italian, and pays homage to his impassioned style of cooking. Likely to be "the best £3.99 you'll ever spend" according to Gino, it covers everything from specially recorded recipe demonstrations, to tips on preserving your parmesan - it's all about foil apparently, it lets it breathe - alongside phonetic pronunciations of some of the lesser-known pasta shapes. The latter is a handy little function that he's particularly happy with considering his own mistakes on live TV: "Nothing ever goes wrong with the food, it's usually me forgetting the word, or pronouncing things wrong. The other week we were doing some nibbles, like antipasti, and I was calling them nipples..."
Thankfully he manages to escape any genuine embarrassment due to his enigmatic Italian charm - something that, no doubt, helped to get him crowned Jungle King in I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here in 2009. Not that his popularity was unanimous - in fact, the Australian authorities charged him and fellow contestant Stuart Manning with animal cruelty, for killing and cooking a rat on the show (the charges were later dropped). Although the recipe wasn't strictly faithful to his Italian roots, Gino claims that the rodent risotto "really wasn't that bad". Or at least, it was considerably more palatable than some of the bushtucker delights he was forced to digest for the good of his team - a crocodile tongue, a cockroach, a witchetty grub and a fermented egg, the last of which he says was easily the worst: "It was completely horrific. The smell was just unbelievable."
Gino has just finished hosting Let's Do Lunch... with Gino and Mel on ITV1 and despite all of this he still vows he is going to try "to spend more time with my children". Really? But how? When will he fit it all in? "I have to get up at half five and I drink a lot of espresso," he laughs. "Coffee keeps me young."