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"My Academy is my home, my heart and my life" - Jean-Christophe Novelli

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CELEBRITY chef Jean Christophe Novelli has been to Whitehaven so many times – he is almost a ‘marra’.

I have been everywhere in the world but there are places I love to go back to and those that I don’t – I won’t say which they are!”

The 51-year-old is very passionate about his cooking and his enthusiasm for sharing – that is what really drives him.

“I have got new things to do and I like the fact that people want more from me,” he said.

Whitehaven is a bit like an extended family for Jean Christophe – meeting up with familiar faces and seeing people change.

“People know me quite well here and Whitehaven is the only place where they don’t get my name wrong and call me Jean Claude!

“I just love it here and whether I was part of the festival or not I would definitely come back.

“The only problem I have is that I don’t have time to see all the stalls,” he said.

The five out of five AA Rosette and Michelin award-winning chef walked around the harbour and through the town centre posing for photographs and signing autographs, as well as displaying his fine culinary skills.

Despite his good looks and charming personality, not many people will know that Jean Christophe is not as self-confident as he may appear.

“I don’t particularly like myself,” he said as he walked up King Street.

“I don’t like seeing myself on television and I am very critical. The only thing that keeps me going is that I am a chef.”

He says he is very conscious of the way he speaks when he is on television or giving demonstrations and thinks he is sometimes too compulsive about what he does.

But most people would not agree – they love the accent and they also love his passion for good food.

Together with festival organiser Gerard Richardson, the chef also launched their new book over the weekend which raises money for future events.

A Mad Frog and an Englishman go Fishing features the best of West Cumbria’s fishing industry through a selection of delicious recipes.

“I love everything to do with fish and fishing,” he says. “The book is about a lot of people and how they all come together.”

And he was delighted to come up when the book was being put together and see how the fish was caught by local fishermen.

“That’s the thing I also love about the festival – it really brings together the sea and the land and not many festivals do that,” he added.

On top of his professional career, Jean Christophe is looking forward to more exciting times in his personal life as he is expecting another baby on August 1 with his fiancee Michelle.

He says he is “over the moon” about the forthcoming new arrival. He also has a four-year-old son Jean and grown-up daughter Christina.