Welcome back to part 2 of my interview with Gino D’Acampo. In part 1, Gino told me about his love of Twitter, his Good Food Fight campaign with Cheestrings and how he’s been banned from the kitchen at home. I’d relaxed by now and we were chatting more than I was interviewing him.
I wanted to know what Gino though was the secret to good Italian food. “It’s to keep it simple. A lot of people, they think that creating Italian food is difficult and they need to try to find these fancy ingredients. Italian food is about buying a fresh tomato when it’s in season, buying a good quality extra virgin olive oil and a few basil leaves and there you have it, that is what good Italian food is all about”. His quick fix for a fast, healthy meal is, of course, a plate of pasta. “In the time you’ve boiled the pasta for 7-8 minutes, I can do a sauce, a tomato sauce with cheese on top, with a bit of fresh basil.”
He feels that food in Italian restaurants here is improving but is still behind. “It’s getting better. But still, I think we’re still about 20 years behind here. To be honest with you, in London at the moment, there are probably not even 10 restaurants that I consider do proper Italian food. Not even 10; I think the last time I counted, I was on 7.”
We somehow came on to the fact that I do weekly meal plans and it turns out he’d been looking at my Meal Planning Monday post that morning – oh, and the post detailing the contents of my fridge! Whilst part of me cursed the timing of these posts, Gino told me how he doesn’t like meal plans but sees the need for them. “My wife tried to do a weekly menu and after one month, I had to say, “We’re going to have to stop this” because so often when my wife planned to have, say, pizza, I don’t fancy pizza, so I’d say to her, ”Why don’t you do a bit of freestyle?” so we just cook whatever we want. But with kids, you have to plan ahead, especially if you want to keep food healthy. When people ask me what is the secret to healthy food, I say you need to plan your shopping.”
Last year, Gino published a book called The Italian Diet, and being interested in fitness myself, I asked him whether he’d ever struggled with his weight. “Never. I called the book “The Italian Diet” but it’s not really a diet book. It is to show people that if you eat sensibly, you just don’t put weight on. If you eat sensible – of course if you eat a kilo of cheese a day, you’re going to put on weight - but if you have a portion-controlled amount of cheese, everything is fine. All things in moderation. That’s what the book was all about.“ To stay fit, he swims and “I move a lot. I’m always up doing something.”
What about Gino on a day off? I asked him what activities he does with his sons when he has free time. Having recently given up his Sunday radio show, he has more time at home. But do you know what he does? He cooks! “We play and stuff like that, but I try to cook with them if I can. What I’m trying to do is to show them that cooking is a fun thing to do. And that is important because once children realise that cooking is fun, they will use that for the rest of their life. My kids cook anything, simple things like cheese on toast, a plate of pasta with tomato sauce or anything that they like.”
I was disappointed to learn that Gino is not a fan of football. “I don’t like football very much. My little boy does it; Rocco loves football. Luciano prefers rugby, he’s a rugby player. I actually prefer rugby to football, to be honest with you. I think it’s more interesting, more a gentleman’s game.”
Finally, I ran out of questions. The time had passed in a flash and after a hug, a photocall and exchange of pleasantries, I was back outside. I got my phone out to tweet someone to meet them, looked up and there was Gino stood next to me. When he noticed my phone, he laughed at me tweeting until I explained what I was doing. My abiding impression of him was that he was great to interview. He was friendly and easy to talk to, and occasionally a bit cheeky; in other words, very much like his on-screen persona. It was a pleasure to meet him.
And before anyone asks, yes, he remained fully clothed throughout!
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 refunded. I have included a link to the Cheestrings website as requested but other than that, I have not been told what to write.)