I can turn anybody into a cook promises Ipswich bound chef Gino D’Acampo
Celebrity chef Gino D’Acampo takes fans on a journey through his beloved Italy in his first ever theatre tour - and issues a personal culinary challenge to entertainment writer Wayne Savage.
D’Acampo was 12 when he knew he wanted to be a chef. Cleaning the pots and washing the floor of his grandfather’s restaurant in Naples to make a little pocket money, he recalls watching him work from the corner of the kitchen.
“I used to go there all the time. I watched him as I was cleaning and peeling potatoes, doing all the very hard working things in the kitchen. Twenty minutes later he came up with this dish and I thought ‘this is the best thing any human can do’. You pick up two or three ingredients and come up with a wonderful dish. At that moment I thought ‘this is exactly what I want to do with my life’ and that was it - Gino became a cook.”
The chef, TV personality and best-selling author has been cooking Italian food for the last 25 years. Being able to share his love of it, to inspire people, is what it’s all about – which is why he’s embarking on his first UK theatre show, Gino’s Italian Escape, coming to Ipswich in November.
“You meet people who say ‘I’m not really keen on Indian or Chinese food’, I’ve never yet met anyone who says ‘I’m not keen on Italian’ – it’s impossible not to love, right? It’s simple, natural, colourful. You hit the nail earlier when you said Italian food is also about the stories, the tradition. You eat it and you’re taken straight there, with an Italian family eating these wonderful ingredients. Italian food makes you dream. Not many other cuisines do that.”
A busy man, D’Acampo admits wife Jessica takes care of dinner at home most times. When his three children Luciano, Rocco and Mia want something specific he’s the first one in the kitchen.
“Bam, bam, bam, cook - job done. We have takeaway nights like everybody else, there’s nothing wrong with that as long as you don’t abuse it. I always tell people it’s okay to have a ready meal once in a while. As long as you eat good food most of the time that’s the secret.”
This Morning regular D’Acampo says the increasing number of cookery shows on TV is one reason we’ve become a nation of foodies.
“They show people ‘if I put a little bit of an effort in here I can make a beautiful risotta, pasta’. It inspires people to get into the kitchen. (Different) ingredients are more available, people tend to travel more, they experience new cuisine all the time now.”
It’s a day of press for D’Acampo. I’m his 27th interview, with another 15 in the queue behind me. He doesn’t care, he loves talking about the tour.
“This is my first theatre tour. I’ve been presenting Escape (on TV) for the last three years. I came back from Italy two days ago (where I was) filming the third series, which goes out on November 13, and the new book is going to follow. I thought there are so many places I’ve been, so many recipes I’ve learned, so many secrets I want to share.”
He’s been pulling the show together since February. Excited rather than nervous, the only thing he hasn’t sorted yet is what he’s going to cook.
“I don’t know yet. You’ll find out on the night. We’ll do recipes from the series, I want to do a couple of recipes using whatever local produce is in season. The only things I need are a kitchen, ingredients and a fireman; that’s it. They ask ‘why the fireman’? I said ‘well, number one if I burn the theatre down and most importantly the girls can enjoy’.”
He laughs, thanking me, when I suggest women in the audience are more likely to be looking at him, insisting if their eyes aren’t on the fireman they’ll be on the food.
Some members will have the chance to get close to the celebrity chef when he invites them on stage to cook with him.
“If you’ve ever wondered what it means to spend an evening with Gino D’Acampo well here’s your chance. I’ll apologise right now if an element of Celebrity Juice Gino comes out because I’m sure he will. I’m the kind of guy who likes to have fun, takes things with a pinch of salt. (Inviting people on stage) that’s the part that worries me the least, it’s the best part of my job.
“People coming to see my show, they’re going to be super cool. They’re going to be as excited to interact with me as I’m excited to interact with them. Nothing can go wrong, even if I find the most useless person in the kitchen ever I will turn them into someone that at the end of it can cook.”
I confess he may already be speaking to him.
“Then you need to promise me something – that you’re going to be there. By the end of the night you’ll come to me and say ‘Gino, you know what, you were right’.”
If you read that the Ipswich Regent burnt down on November 7 you’ll know he wasn’t.