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

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Taking sexiest chef nod with a pinch of salt - East Anglian Daily Times

Inspired by his French mother and Italian grandmother’s food, he knew he wanted to be a chef from the age of nine or 10.

“There was no question, I just love cooking. My first demonstration in public was at a school fair. They were trying to raise some money for something; I was the only one who did something to eat – pancakes. I became very popular, I ran out.

“So much fun, it was unbelievable. I knew I would love the work because on top of that I love to interact with people. Some people, we didn’t get on at school during the year, but it changed completely. Food brings people together.”

He was first captivated by the way bread, croissants, meringue were made. “That was absolutely unbelievable, the way they were doing that. My mother… we did not have that much money and she was doing some fantastic things for lunch, dinner, whatever.

“She can’t do that much, she got polio when she was four and that stopped her doing a lot of things… I was always very fortunate to be surrounded by fantastic people.” An AA Chef’s Chef of the Year, European Chef of the Year finalist, winner of the prestigious Egon Ronay Dessert of the Year and regular recipient of restaurant of the year, his Novelli Academy Cookery School is ranked one of the best in the world.

He will be in the cooking demo area, teaching visitors to the 11th Suffolk Spring Garden Show how to cook the perfect barbeque.

“People who are doing barbeques are very brave to be honest. It’s sad because you don’t need to have the sunshine to have a beautiful barbie outside. The most important thing is not the sun, it’s the way you can socialise and you can all enjoy food.

“I think people forget you don’t have to cook everything on the barbeque. You can do some cooking, curing or marinating before the day, it does work. For example I do some barbeque courses in my cookery school and whatever the weather is we do it “What I tend to do sometimes which surprises people, we do a pork belly glazed with honey and cider. I make sure the pork is actually cooked, then gentle glazing on the side and then finish it on the barbeque and it’s just fantastic.

“Something relatively well-balanced with salad and tomato but with a piece of chicken all burnt on the side… and people actually eat it, this is not acceptable. Washing it down with some beers or some wine is not going to help.”

Novelli loves cooking for an audience. “There’s no pressure at all; cooking is cooking. I’m not asked to sing or act or do a long speech, I’m there to cook and that’s what I’ve done for more than 35 years in my life. I’m more comfortable to cook than doing DIY.”

He guarantees visitors a fun time. “I’m going to spend a lot of time speaking to people, introduce things that are very healthy - no more than six grams of salt, using less than 20 grams of saturated fat. It doesn’t mean it’s boring cooking at all; it means you’re using a greater understanding, trying to get a link to what nature provides us.”

The show will be full of the joys of a new year over the extra long Easter weekend.

It will be stocked with hundreds of top nurseries, garden companies, experts and floral displays which already include herbaceous shrubs, Japanese maples and roses.

Topping off the event on the Monday are Jazz duo Straight no Chasers, with more entertainment planned.

Green-fingered enthusiasts and occasional gardeners alike will find plenty of inspiration at the show, which includes an outdoor-shopping zone and the landscape and design area where the likes of Heather Baxter from Growing Designs will showcase some of her work.

Other garden companies attending include Katie’s Garden, Netherfold Nursery, Fairtrade Furniture and Old House Farm Nursery, all brimming with ideas for whatever sized garden you have.

The show runs from Friday, March 29 to Monday, April 1, at Trinity Park, Felixstowe Road, Ipswich. Doors open at 9:30am

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