Britain’s favourite Italian chef has recently returned from road-tripping across the Continent to open the newest of his My Restaurant collection at The Springs, Leeds.
Although he’s as Italian as they come, it’s clear that Yorkshire and Gino D’Acampo share a real affinity for each other. ‘I’ve always said how much I love Yorkshire,’ enthuses Gino. ‘Every time I visit, I always have such a wonderful time – the people are just so kind to me.’
In fact, he loves the region so much, he’s recently opened his fourth restaurant here. His second in Leeds, the newest My Restaurant is based at The Springs, and it’s clear to see how excited Gino is about it. ‘If you want traditional, Italian food, in an incredible setting, then this is the only place to come, I’m afraid!’, laughs Gino as he talks us through the concept and design.
Gino has previously spoken publicly about his passion for working in Yorkshire, but why has this born and bred Italian come to love the county as much as he does? Certainly as a foodie, the incredible variety and quality of locally grown and reared produce on offer has played a leading role. ‘Yorkshire produces beautiful meat and vegetables, and wherever possible I always try to push for local food to be used,’ explains Gino. It’s this local produce that he regularly features on the menus of his restaurants, working with local suppliers wherever possible to produce Italian dishes with a little bit of Yorkshire in them.
What’s more, the friendly and welcoming locals haven’t failed to impress. ‘Yorkshire is just super cool. It’s home to such a lovely bunch of people, who make me feel so welcome every single time I visit,’ Gino tells us. ‘The amazing food and incredible people are such a winning combination.’ Fans of the Italian chef will know that he has spoken regularly of his passion for Yorkshire and its people. Shortly before the launch of his Harrogate restaurant, Gino told the crowds how he fell in love with the town’s elegance and charm. And when he opened his restaurant in Hull, Gino admitted to liking the people there so much, that he would happily swap his day job to become the city’s mayor.
But with such an incredible variety of local produce and regional specialities on offer here, is he able to pick a favourite dish? ‘You know me, I will pretty much cook and eat anything,’ begins Gino. ‘But I have to be honest, the Yorkshire pudding is still my absolute favourite.’ Little surprise really, that he previously shared a recipe for the perfect Yorkshire pud (sparkling water gives the batter added lift). But has he grown tired of this simple classic? Absolutely not. ‘Two weeks ago, I made a Yorkshire pudding with whipped cream and hot Nutella sauce – oh my god my kids went wild,’ he laughs. ‘I have to thank chef Brian Turner really, he gave me the recipe about 15 years ago now, and since then I’ve never looked back.’
And he’s gained quite a following for his Yorkshire pudding skills. ‘Did you know that I taught Cilla Black how to make the perfect pud?’, he asks. ‘I was on This Morning with Cilla, and she asked me how to make the best Yorkshire pudding, so I taught her. And I can remember thinking that it was so crazy, an Italian teaching Cilla Black how to make the perfect Yorkshire pudding!’ Crazy? Maybe. But perhaps not, when you think about how much the nation has come to love one of Italy’s best exports. Just ask the millions of viewers who recently tuned in to watch the unfolding chaos, as Gino embarked on the road trip of a lifetime with fellow TV personalities Gordon Ramsay and Fred Sirieix.
Wherever you go, it’s evident that his passion for the county has helped cement Gino as an honorary Yorkshireman. But what’s next for the celebrity chef? ‘In life, we should always have any excuse to go out and celebrate. And there’s no better way of doing that then by gathering your family and friends, and going out to enjoy delicious food in a really good restaurant,’ he says. And that’s exactly why he’s opening a fifth restaurant in Yorkshire, with an expected opening of summer 2019. ‘I can’t tell you where it will be though yet,’ teases Gino. ‘You’ll just have to keep your eyes peeled!’
The My Restaurant collection can be found in Harrogate, Hull, Leeds City Centre and Leeds The Springs.