Friday evening saw me shaking in my Italian, diamond studded shoes as I headed into Dublin’s new Convention Centre. The reason for the nerves was my impending interview with gorgeous, talented celebrity chef, Gino D’Acampo (@Ginofantastico), who was there for Taste of Christmas, the season’s finest food, drink and shopping event.
As I was lead into the room where the interview would take place, I spotted Gino at a desk in the corner, tapping away on a computer. As my legs turned to jelly, I realised that to try and escape would be futile!
“Buongiorno Bellissima,” he said, jumping up to greet me. After he planted a kiss on both my cheeks, we sat down on a cream leather sofa and I began to relax. I watched him make himself comfortable and noted how sexy he looked in his grey jumper and Dolce & Gabbana jeans. His beautiful blue eyes sparkled as he smiled encouragingly at me. “Do you have some questions you’d like to ask?” he said, in his gorgeous Italian accent.
Oh God… yes… questions! I wanted to say no – I wanted to say that if it was alright with him, I’d just sit and stare at him for the next while but I had a job to do so I thought I’d better get on with it. There were a million things I wanted to ask him but since this is a blog about Twitter, I reckoned I should start there.
With almost 100,000 followers, Gino is a very popular man. I asked him what he loves about Twitter. “I love that it’s such a direct contact with fans,” he said. “I love to get feedback about things – my books, my new app - the fans will always tell me what’s good and bad about these things. I sometimes run ideas past them too. I might have an idea for a new recipe or something I want to include in a book and I’ll ask them their opinions.”
I’ve seen how Twitter almost explodes when Gino tweets something, prompting thousands of questions and comments from fans (mainly women!) anxious to make contact with him. I asked him if he manages his own Twitter account and how it’s possible to keep up with all the tweets. “Of course I manage my own account,” he said. “It’s my direct contact with people so it wouldn’t make sense for anyone else to do it. It’s difficult to answer everyone but I try to get to as many as I can – sometimes with just a hello or a few kisses.”
Gino makes no secret of his love of Dublin, tweeting often about it. He sent a tweet last Friday that read:
And this is why I Love Dublin, cheers to you all my TweetFriends, you are the best xxxxxx http://yfrog.com/74tqqqj
So obviously the Guinness is high on his list, but what else is it about Dublin that draws him to the city? “It’s the people,” he said. “The people of Dublin are fantastico! They’re warm and genuine and great fun. In fact, they’re very like Italian people.”
Gino, who lives in north London with his wife, Jessica and his sons, Rocco and Luciano, inherited his love of cooking from his Grandfather. “He was a head chef,” Gino told me, “and taught me many things – about life as well as cooking. He told me that I should always push myself to be the best I can be. He was a really great influence in my life.”
When I asked Gino about Christmas dinner at his house, he told me that they very rarely cook turkey. “It’s all about fish,” he said. “We usually have shellfish and a favourite for the main course would be sea bass with roasted vegetables.”
Having skipped lunch because of the swarm of butterflies in my stomach, my mouth was watering at the thought of his delicious cooking. I asked him what he’d cook for me if I was a guest at his house for dinner. He looked at me with a cheeky grin and I knew I wasn’t going to get a straight answer! “For you, bellissima,” he said, “eggs on toast and then…!” Ladies I’ll leave that one to your imagination!
When I managed to compose myself, we chatted about his new book, Gino’s Pasta. I asked him why write a book completely about pasta? “Everywhere I go, people ask me about pasta,” he says. “It’s so versatile and lends itself to quick and tasty dinners, which is fantastic for people with busy lives. I wanted to show everyone how delicious and yet simple it can be.”
In 2009 Gino was crowned king of the jungle in I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! It was no surprise he took the crown as his boyish charm and cheeky smile endeared him to the nation and his endless enthusiasm and upbeat personality won over the hearts of his fellow campers. With the current series well underway, I asked him if he was watching. “To be honest, I’m so busy at the moment, I don’t get to see it all the time,” he said. “I watched the first few episodes and I’ve just been catching up whenever I can.”
But does he miss being there? Is he pining for the rice and beans? Does he wish he could once again endure a bush tucker trial? Does he long to tuck into widgety grubs and kangaroo testicles? He winced at that. “I absolutely don’t miss being there,” he said, honestly. “It was one of the best experiences of my life. I loved every last minute of it and made some great friends. But it’s something you only want to do once in your life. I don’t regret any of it but have no inclination to repeat the experience!”
And what about Gillian McKeith, I wanted to know. What does he think of her and how she’s been acting in camp? He didn’t hesitate. “She shouldn’t be there,” he said. “If she’s so phobic about everything and feeling sick and weak, she should really just leave. It’s as simple as that.”
As the current king, he must have a favourite – somebody he’d love to hand his crown over to. “Well I’m not actually travelling over to hand back my crown,” he said. “I’m just so busy at the moment, I don’t have the time. But my front-runners would be Alison Hammond and Stacey Solomon. They’re both fantastic and would be worthy winners.”
Before I went to meet Gino, I sent out a tweet to ask his fans that if they had the opportunity to ask him one question, what it would be. Well, suffice it to say that a lot were unrepeatable! But I took a few of the most popular ones and, as they do on all the best game-shows, we had a quick-fire round!
If you could be anything other than a chef, what would you be?
What’s your secret to having women fall at your feet?
Confidence – having the confidence to look a woman in the eye.
What was the first thing you cooked for your wife?
Chicken in Marsala wine.
What are the basic store cupboard items you should always have?
Extra virgin olive oil, tins of tomatoes, pasta, eggs and milk.
Is there anyone you’d like to meet that you haven’t met already?
Are you always as happy and upbeat as you appear to be?
Yes. Life is too short not to be.
Unfortunately, my time with Gino had come to an end but I wasn’t letting him go without a proper Irish hug. I did it for all you ladies out there! Honestly, the things I have to do for this job…!