Monday, 9 May 2011

Gino and me (part 1)

When I received an email entitled “Gino D’Acampo”, I thought it was a press release. Imagine my shock when I found it was an invitation to meet and interview the Italian TV chef, famous for cooking nude on This Morning and winning “I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here” in 2009. I was dumbstruck, because well, I’m a blogger, not a journalist!

So, one Monday morning, I was scribbling nervously on a tube into London, making sure I had questions covering all of the five Fs that this blog is about. I had tweeted about my nerves the night before, and had a tweet back from Gino. When I walked in, my mouth suddenly dry and trying to maintain my composure, he recognised me from my profile picture straight away. Luckily, after me fumbling around with setting my phone to record and getting my notebook out, the conversation started to flow and I forgot my nerves. In fact, we talked so much that I know we went over the time allotted for the interview and covered so much that I’ve split this into two parts.

It seemed natural to start the interview by talking about Twitter. Gino is a big fan and told me why he loves it. “I think it’s a good way to get a response from people straight away, and you can be sociable with people, it’s great. What’s the point of doing my job if I don’t ever have the chance to talk to people that follow me?” He likes to reply to his followers but he can’t reply to everyone – he has over 200,000 followers!

I’d been invited to do the interview as part of a campaign being launched today with Cheestrings called Gino’s Good Food Fight. I asked him why he was doing it. “I got together with Cheestrings to start Gino’s Good Food Fight because I wanted to help busy mums who are preparing lunchboxes. I wanted to make sure that whatever they put in there is healthy and a bit of fun in the lunch box. We need to excite children. What we wanted to achieve is when kids open their lunchbox, they are excited and open it with a smile, so they eat healthy with a smile.” I wondered if his children – he has two boys, aged 9 and 6 – had packed lunches. They don’t at school, but Gino tells me they have them when they go to football and rugby and that Rocco, his youngest, gets excited just having a lunchbox, just like Monkey and Missy Woo do. “We want to make sure that the excitement is still there. That’s the idea of Gino’s Good Food Fight.”

Gino says his boys are good eaters and try everything because that is how they have raised them. He feels that it’s down to the parents to get children to try new foods. “A lot of parents, they’re scared to let them try stuff... Some parents, they don’t like certain things. They automatically assume their kids won’t like it... My little boy, he never liked broccoli but the third time that he tried it, he thought it was the best thing ever. You should try something at least two or three times.” His approach to food with his sons is very much the same as his parents’ approach when he was a child. “My mum and dad always wanted me to try something new. It’s the same with my boys.”

I was interested in how they ate at home and whether it was mainly Italian. He told me it was a bit of everything – from Italian to barbeques and Sunday roasts. When pressed on his favourite cuisine apart from Italian, he chose Thai and Mediterranean cuisine as his favourites. “I like Mediterranean cuisine because I find it very full of flavour, very interesting.”

You won’t be surprised to learn that he usually does most of the cooking at home.  “I’m one of these people that if somebody else is in the kitchen, I have to get in there and do something .My wife hates that. The nanny hates that as well”. Things might be changing, however. “I’m chilling out lately, I have to say, I’m trying to avoid the kitchen. One of the reasons why is the nanny and my wife, they completely banned me from there because they say that I always find something wrong.” I’m sensing the perfectionist in him when it comes to food.

That’s it for part 1. Come back tomorrow, when Gino tells me the secret to good Italian food, his opinion of the state of Italian restaurants in the UK, and I find out Gino has been looking in my fridge!

Visit Cheestrings.com to learn more about Gino’s Good Food Fight, and see how Cheestrings are working to help mums make good food fun for the lunchbox.

(I have not been paid a fee to write this interview, although my travel expenses were paid. I have included links to the Cheestrings website as requested but other than that, I have not been told what to write.)
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