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

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Jean-Christophe Novelli on travel, fine food and where to find the best meal in Paris

You travel a lot for work. What are your favourite travel destinations?

Well, in the next few weeks I’m off to Qatar – to cook for 500 people, including the Qatari royal family. Then I’m in Russia. That’s the first time that I will have been there – I’m doing a French week in a restaurant in St Petersburg.

I go a lot to Germany and Austria. But I also spend a lot of time in Cumbria, in the Lake District. And I travel to Scotland a lot – Edinburgh and Glasgow. I source my mussels in the Shetland Islands. I usually go once a year. For a Frenchman to be able to spend so much time in Britain – to see how produce is prepared, meeting people – is marvellous.

Where else is on your travel radar?

I love going to Dublin for the weekend. There’s a great restaurant, Le Pichet, run by a chap called Nick Munier []. He was on Hell’s Kitchen with Marco Pierre White. It’s the most exclusive bistro in Dublin. And God knows how many good places there are there.

Do you have a favourite destination in the UK?

I love Whitehaven. I love the scenery of the fishing port. Whether it is raining or sunny, it’s fantastic

Where would you recommend in your native France?

Lake Annecy. It’s fantastic, so beautiful. There is a town there, Talloires, just beyond the lake. It is one of my favourite places.

And Arras [Novelli's home town, in the Pas-de-Calais department] is wonderful. It is very easy to reach by train from London and Paris. There is the medieval town, which has a lot of boutiques, and artisans who make things very well, very cheaply.

And it has kept the First World War alive, in a sense. All the trenches and tunnels are still there. A lot of people come from everywhere in the world. Otherwise, there is fine food, markets – and you can have a good time without spending too much money.

Do you spend much time in Paris?

I enjoy Paris. It’s obviously unique. I used to go to a special street, Rue de Belles-Feuilles, where I used to do the shopping for the Rothschild family [Novelli was a chef for the family in his early twenties]. You can find everything from around the world – the best smoked salmon, the best scallops, the best caviar. Exquisite. Even if you don’t buy anything, you can just watch. It’s in the 16th arrondissement [north of the Seine].

Do you have a favourite restaurant in Paris?

Alain Ducasse, he’s the best. He’s always been the best [the celebrated French chef has seven restaurants in Paris, including a legendary outlet at the Plaza Athénée hotel – see].

If you go to Ducasse, you don’t necessarily spend a fortune. But you are guaranteed a great culinary experience. You are dealing with the best of the best. If you read the menu, you are reading fresh news – not a load of dishes that have been repeated.

Is there anywhere in the world that you would love to visit?

I think I’ve been everywhere! Actually no, I haven’t been to Japan or China yet. I’d love to go to China. But I’ve been to most places – to South America, New York, South Africa, Australia, I’ve been everywhere. So I’d like to discover China. And the moon!

What do you have planned for the Taste Of Christmas event?

I’ll be explaining how to organise your Christmas, and how you can do a fantastic job in the kitchen without sweating, without worrying. There’s a lot to do at Christmas.

I’ll be talking about how to achieve a lot of flavour. And I will talk about presentation. People are often more worried about how food will look rather than how it will taste.

Give us a quick Christmas cooking tip…

You can use your car as a fridge outside. The temperature is cold enough for keeping things cool. People always have their fridges over-packed at Christmas.

Jean-Christophe Novelli will be appearing at the Taste Of London food festival at London's Excel Centre (7-9 December). Tickets and information via

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