Whenever Gino D’Acampo plates up impressive-looking meals on TV, he can rest assured that somewhere in southern Italy, at least one person will be bewildered by the fanfare.
“Every time my mother sees me on television, she says to me, ‘I cannot understand how you make a plate of pasta and end up with a job on television! Italian people make plates of pasta every day and nobody notices”, explains the lively 38-year-old cook, who won I’m A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! in 2009.
According to D’Acampo, his mama “always has something to say” about his food. So presumably when he sends over a batch of DVDs of his latest series, Gino’s Italian Escapes: A Taste Of The Sun, his dear old mum will have plenty of feedback.
“Often I say to her, ‘Don’t tell me too straight, lie to me!’” the chef confides, laughing.
At least he had a great time making the programme, spending an idyllic month exploring his home country once again.
While the previous series focused on southern Italy, the second helping, which is accompanied by a book of the same name, sees D’Acampo travelling around the north of the country, sampling regional specialities.
“The north side of Italy is completely different to the south, and the food is very different,” says the Naples-born foodie, who says his dream travelling companion is his wife Jessica, with whom he has two sons and a daughter.
“The people are different, the ingredients are different. I did enjoy this time, because it was like 25 days travelling the most beautiful places in the world. I mean, how lucky am I?”
He came home with happy food memories of “absolutely wonderful little cherry tomatoes”, fennel, and a very tasty ham from Bologna. The Italian adventure was also a welcome chance to escape a certain sugary treat, which he is often sent when he works on ITV’s Let’s Do Lunch With Gino And Mel.
“Cupcakes,” he vents, “are a waste of time. The stodge at the bottom, with a whole load of sugar on the top. They’re big and people make so much effort, and you think, ‘Really? You spent two hours doing this?’
“You know what? If I want a heart attack, I got better ways to do it,” he adds with a wry laugh.
He does, however, make an exception for his wife’s Nutella and hazelnut cupcakes, and knows he has to be polite when he’s given baked gifts.
“You always have to do the thing, ‘Oh lovely!’ And, ‘Thank you very much’,” he says, laughing. “And then as soon as they’ve gone, I give them away!”