Jean Christophe Novelli will be appearing at Sunderland Food and Drink Festival on Saturday, June 22. The celebrity chef will be hosting demonstrations at noon, 2pm and 4pm. Savour chats to the great French chef ahead of his appearance.
Q. You’re coming to the very first city centre Sunderland Food and Drink Festival – how does that feel?
“It’s very exciting for me, I love to visit new places and to meet the people and hopefully they’ll enjoy meeting me too. I’m bound to bump into lots of the audience as I tend to like to walk around the streets wherever I am.”
Q. You’ve been in England now for more than 30 years – what has made you stay?
“I was always fascinated by England as a child. I loved the music, the football and even the food. One of my first jobs was with the Rothschild family in one of their mansions in Paris and everyone spoke English so that started my love affair with the country.
“It was my boss, Elie de Rothschild, who encouraged me to come to England as he thought it would be good for me to learn English – and so I went and stayed.”
Q. French chefs have made quite an impact in the UK haven’t they?
“I describe myself as the last of the French Mohicans. The Roux family and Raymond Blanc have also made huge names for themselves in this country but I feel like the door shut after me.”
Q. Have English chefs had a big influence in your life?
“They have given me some great opportunities. I first worked at Geddes in Southampton and thanks to a really positive review in The Times, chefs like Rick Stein and Marco Pierre White would come in. I then went to work for Keith Floyd in Devon before I moved on to the Gordonton Mill in Hampshire where we won our first Michelin star.”
Q. You opened your cookery school in 2005 and it’s rated as one of the best in the world, that must be very gratifying.
“I opened the doors to my house in Tea Green in Hertfordshire so that I could share my passion for cooking with anyone who wanted to learn about my experiences as a successful restaurateur and to learn some of the techniques I incorporated. Since then, hundreds of people from all walks of life and many corporate clients have honoured me with their presence and I think very few disappointed people have left my home over the years.”
Q. What can people expect when the come to see you at the Sunderland Food and Drink Festival?
“Hopefully they will have a fun and exciting time because, even though I have done may food festivals, we are never sure how it will all end up. I know my ingredients – and it has never not worked out – but I am never sure how the journey will end which makes it a very exciting experience for everyone.”
WHAT’S ON AT SUNDERLAND’S FOOD AND DRINK FESTIVAL?