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TV chef Gino D’Acampo: When I’m on TV, I try to push it… I know where the line is and have one foot over it!

Gino D'Acampo (Andrew Cawley / DC Thomson)
Gino D'Acampo (Andrew Cawley / DC Thomson)

IT’S started before we’ve even got to the table.

A group of ladies – glam, dressed up for a nice lunch and suddenly all-of-a-fluster – have him in their sights.

“Sorry, Gino. We’ll let you have your lunch in a minute. We’re huge fans. Can we have just one more pic?”

Such is the life of This Morning chef and Celebrity Juice stalwart Gino D’Acampo, 40.

“That’s the reason why I don’t often go out in restaurants,” he smiles as we finally take our seats.

“I stick to my own restaurants where they can give me a table out of the way. 20 times a day? I wish. It can be 50. But it’s part of what I do and it’s great.

“I see it as the more pictures people take, the more you’re doing something right.”

Gino D'Acampo (PA)
Gino D’Acampo (PA)

We’ve arranged to meet for a drink to chat about his latest tour and his plans to make Scotland the next stop for his restaurant empire.

“It’s a promise I made to myself three years ago and I want to keep that promise.

“So, I’ll be opening a restaurant here in Glasgow by March 2018.

“I came three years ago but I couldn’t find the site I wanted.

“We’ve been relentlessly looking at sites trying to find a good big one – I’d like a roof terrace.

“I’m coming back in the next couple of months and I’m confident that by this autumn I’ll find the right one”.

From the first eatery in the heart of London, whatever he’s been doing he certainly seems to have the recipe for success.

And it seems he won’t be following in the footsteps of Jamie Oliver who recently announced plans to close six of his Italian restaurants, including one in Aberdeen.

Can you get too big?

“Yes,” he says simply. “The day that my restaurant is only a name and I have nothing to do with it I will sell them.

“There are chains of restaurants with celebrities closing down – I’m opening another four. The only way to be successful is to be on top of it. I do all the menus, which we change every three months.

“I look at everything – the glassware, the knives and forks, the colour of the chairs. Every single thing is approved by me.”

Gino with Sunday Post reporter Bill Gibb
Gino with Sunday Post reporter Bill Gibb

It’s not only food matters that have to be just right for Mr D’Acampo. So does TV.

He is, indeed, just the same on the box as he is in the plush city centre hotel, saying he’d happily walk away if anyone tried to change that.

“I never wanted to do television anyway,” he insists.

“I’m not living my dream, I’m living someone else’s dream. I never grew up thinking I want to be a TV chef. I enjoy it but it has to be done my way.

“I’ve been doing This Morning for 13 years and they trust me. I try to push. I know where the line is – and I have one foot over it.

“Everything from cooking to performance, the foot is slightly over the line and it stays there.”

OK, what about the raucously racy Celebrity Juice?

“Remember the line we were talking about? It’s not there!

“I enjoy the freedom and the friendship with Fearne, Keith Lemon and Holly. Do I actually go there to work? Not really.

“I get there at five in the afternoon, have a pint of Guinness and within half an hour we’re in the studio filming.”

Completely forgetting about the cameras, being yourself and trusting that you’ll be made to look good is Gino’s advice to would-be guests.

But the show that’s served with a side order of sauce isn’t, it seems, the dish of the day for image-conscious, safety-first celebs.

“A lot won’t do it because they’re worried,” he confides.

“I was talking to David Beckham a few weeks ago in Manchester and he said: ‘I LOVE the show’.

“But when I said he should come and do it he said: ‘My PR people would never allow that’.

“Robbie Williams was another. I was with Robbie a few months ago and I knew his wife Ayda came to the show and I said he should come.

“He said: ‘Oh, can you imagine all the people I work with? They’d freak out’. A lot of people watch but not many are allowed, which is a shame as we’re not there to make you look bad.”

Drinks as it happens has turned into lunch as Gino fancies a good old-fashioned steak and chips. He slices into it – in not one but two spots – to check it’s suitably medium rare (just). And hilarity ensues as he whips his phone out to take a picture of the over-sized salad bowl that arrives.

“Is there a rabbit coming out of that? I ordered that? That’s not a side salad, that’s a party salad!”

What’s no laughing matter, he reckons, is the foodie stereotype of a deep-fried nation.

“I saw a shop on the way here advertising deep fried boiled egg. Why is there a need to deep fry a boiled egg? It’s become a gimmick.

“You don’t shout enough about your own fabulous produce. Even your chefs tend to cook what people like instead of sticking to traditional Scottish food, which is amazing.”

Gino's heading on tour around the UK (PA)
Gino’s heading on tour around the UK (PA)

He’ll be back north of the border with his Gino’s Italian Escape Live tour (Dundee Caird Hall Friday 5th May, Edinburgh EICC Saturday 6th May), a spin-off of his hit ITV series.

Less than half of the show is planned, mostly the cooking elements. The rest is freestyle fun which depends on what the audience asks. That, it seems, can be anything.

“It’s all sorts of weird stuff,” he chortles. “From the size of my feet to whether I wear thongs or boxer shorts.

“The questions depend on how much they’ve been drinking. The first half everybody behaves. They’ve probably had one drink, maybe two.

“But then at the break they all go back to the bar and in the second half they get the courage to ask anything. And I mean anything.”

You get the feeling Gino’s irrepressibly flirty nature – a kiss on the waitress’s hand has her swearing a visit to his forthcoming Glasgow eatery – doesn’t act as any deterrent.

So, does wife Jessica, mum to their three kids, Luciano, 15, Rocco, 12, and Mia, four, ever get jealous?

“Sometimes I try to wind her up and say ‘look at all those women in the audience’,” he says with more than a twinkle in his eye.

“She just says that at the end of the day she’s the one who’ll be sleeping with me and the one having breakfast the next morning.”

And with that, Gino’s got the waitress happily flushed again as he launches into a passionate discussion about the merits of Eton mess compared to tiramisu.