Gino D'Acampo sat down for a chat with Female First
Gino D'Acampo sat down for a chat with Female First

A whirlwind of joy wafts into the room as Gino D’Acampo’s distinctive tones bounce off the walls.

Loud, brash, passionate and universally loved by an army of fans in his adopted corner of Europe, this Italian TV chef has long been known for so much more than his culinary skills.

Mention Gino’s name and most will smile, as this man holds a personality with an infectious charisma that is impossible to ignore.

Yet, as he sat down with us here at Female First to promote his new Italian food collection at Iceland, it was clear that this larger than life character also had a very sensitive side that the public has rarely seen, as he opened up on the pain he has suffered in recent years following the loss of his parents.

Now 43, D’Acampo overcame initial adversity after moving to England 26 years ago to build a celebrity career. It has seen him crowned as the winner of I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!, as well as build an empire that includes restaurants and his highly successful Bontà Italia food export business.

Yet he admits he had one big regret, as he launched his latest venture in association with Iceland. D'Acampo emotionally revealed memories of his late mother Alba at the forefront of his mind in a food range that includes a dish named 'My Mama’s Lasagne'.

“I wish my Mum was here to see this now,” he said, as his famous whit and charm was dialled down, and he discussed his beloved mother, who passed away two years ago. 

“It is a shame that we have a lasagne coming out with her name on it and she is not here to see it because I know she would feel so proud. 

“I would love to ask her if she thinks I did a good job recreating her lasagne, but I can guess what she might say.

“In the year before she died, I made this lasagne with the same recipe for her when she came to visit me in England and she gave me some tips to improve it that made it into this Iceland recipe.

“My mother could never say it was great or it was perfect, this was not her way. I think she would like what we have produced here, even though I know she would be giving me some ideas on how to improve it!”

D’Acampo’s late mother is not the only star of his new food range, as his seven-year-old daughter Mia stars in the television advert that accompanies the Iceland campaign and also has a meatball range named in her honour.

Gino D'Acampo with his daughter Mia
Gino D'Acampo with his daughter Mia

While many celebrities would shy away from promoting their family in such a high profile campaign, Gino and his wife Jessica, whom he married back in 2002, are comfortable with their collective role in his success.

“I didn’t have a problem putting my daughter out there on the advert or talking about my family because when it is a genuine situation like mine, there is nothing to worry about,” he insists. 

“Some people might make up a happy family story when, in fact, they don’t have that and that can be a problem at some moment in the future.

“With me and my family, we have nothing to hide. This is a real, genuine attempt to bring people the cooking I was lucky to have when I was growing up and no one can question how my mother cooked lasagne because I am the only one who knows. 

“Also, Mia loved filming the video we made for this Iceland campaign. We were in Sardinia in the summer and it was 41 degrees, she had studio lights on her for hours, no experience in front of the camera, but she did an amazing job.

“In fact, after watching her perform in such a professional manner on this advert, she might have what it takes to go on to become a big TV star. I will be very happy if that happens because it means I can retire early!”

Becoming a father has shaped Gino’s life since his first son was born 17 years ago and he admits the initial burden of responsibility came as a shock to him.

“Everything changed for me when my first son Luciano was born,” he confirmed. “That moment makes you realise you are not here by yourself any more and it is an experience that changes you. You have to provide for someone else. 

“You feel this kind of responsibility a little when you get married, but it’s not the same as when you have children because they look up at you and you realise the responsibility you now have.

“For a short time with Luciano, this was daunting, but then you start to get used to the role and start making the same mistakes all parents make.

“You start to say the silly and inappropriate jokes in front of the kids that get you told off by your wife and you do what all Dad’s do. We are all the same, you know.”

D’Acampo’s boundless enthusiasm is infectious to all around him, yet he admitted his celebrity career was never part of his initial career plan.

"I started television 16 years ago and it was a big accident from the start," he added. "My only ambition was to have a restaurant and bring real Italian food to this country. Television was never even part of my idea, so I can say without hesitation that I am living someone else's dream.

"I worked for an Italian company as a development chef and the producer of a show called Good Food Live on Sky. They saw me cooking and they got me for a one-off appearance even though I was not too keen and I said this wasn't my thing.

"Then I did it and I felt very comfortable with the camera, even if my English was nowhere near as good as it is now. Suddenly it started to take off and now that my English is getting better, I will never lose this accent. I am still around too many Italian people to start speaking like a guy from London. I live in Italy for six months of the year, all the people in my restaurants are Italian and it means that when I speak, it is always with an Italian accent in my head."

Gino D'Acampo spoke to Female First's Kevin Palmer
Gino D'Acampo spoke to Female First's Kevin Palmer

Gino D’Acampo spoke to Female First at the launch of his new Italian frozen range with Iceland Foods. The range is available now.

Interview by Kevin Palmer, who you can follow on Twitter @RealKevinPalmer.

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