Jean-Christophe Novelli, the UK’s favourite French chef takes some time out at The France Show 2009 to talk to David Andrews about his plans for 2009 and his reaction to Gordon Ramsay turning up unannounced at his cookery school…
What are your first impressions of The France Show 2009 and do you like the changes made since last year.
It is getting better and much bigger each year. The signs and graphics are great and it has a much better layout. I think it is generally getting better every year. The publicity has been good and worked well.
Do you have any big plans for 2009?
I have a TV series coming out in America in June. I will also be expanding the academy with a new academy school opening in LA. A restaurant in Marbella has just opened and I hope to open a restaurant in Singapore soon. I also have a new range of recipes coming out for Findus.
You have recently been filming in LA – would you ever move there?
LA is a great place and I nearly bought a second home there but it was just the wrong time to buy.
Were you surprised that Gordon Ramsay turned up at you academy recently in disguise and how did you spot him so quickly.
I was surprised he turned up – we have known each other for 18 years but not spoken for the last 4 years. I could smell him! When I say smell I mean if you know someone for that long you can sense them and their character whatever they wear. We made our friendship up that day. He was very polite with my family and I invited him in – he showed great interest in what I was doing.
If you could host a dinner party and invite anyone who would it be.
The Queen – I would love to cook for her. And Henry 8th, according to local history he used to stop at my house for tea.
What’s your favourite dish of all time.
My mothers Stuffed baked tomatoes. Stuffed with mince, cheese and herbs. I make them now as well.
What is the most versatile ingredient you use and can’t be without.
Vanilla pods – they have such a versatile flavour. I use them in ice cream, tomatoes, fish – a huge range of food.
The UK has an obsession with celebrity chefs – Do you think France will follow the UK and make more chefs celebrities.
I don’t think so – it is difficult to get the chance in France. There are more opportunities in the UK to become well known. It is part of the culture here.
The Michelin star rating has been criticised recently – do you think it is important to keep this system.
I am no longer with the Michelin star rating but it was very important to me at the beginning of my career and I was very proud of it. I hope it is the same as it used to be.