Life

Jean-Christophe Novelli: Madonna's Jump video's great – everyone should watch it

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: celebrated TV chef Jean-Christophe Novelli, who has just opened his first restaurant in Belfast at the AC Hotel, Donegall Quay

French chef Jean-Christophe Novelli. Was I a sporty kid? One million per cent, yes

1. Up and at it – what is your morning routine?

I get up very early, around 5.45am, usually when the boys come into our room and start jumping on the bed. I'll help get them ready and then drive them to their different schools before I head to the shops and buy the ingredients for the day. Around 9am, I'll maybe bring the baby to the swings in the park for a while before I head to my office.

2. What might you eat in a typical working day for...

Breakfast? I don't eat early in the day and breakfast will normally be about three or four cups of coffee.

Lunch? For lunch, I'll have sandwich – my wife, Michelle, doesn't do any of the cooking, but she makes fantastic sandwiches. I don't really mind what filling my sandwich will have, but I do like cheese. I'll also have a glass of grapefruit or orange juice and an apple. I'll juice some strawberries, raspberries and beetroot juices for the boys, so I might have some of that too.

Evening meal? My evening meal will be fresh fish if it's a Tuesday, otherwise some white meat dish. Sometimes I'll make a Bolognese, fresh pizza or a classic French pot au feu.

3. Is nutrition important to you?

Yes, very important. I don't eat sugar at home, but have to keep it in my kitchen for cooking. I also don't use salt and will flavour foods with other, more healthy ingredients such as fresh garlic or ginger.

4. Best meal ever?

Ah, so many 'best meals ever'... If I have to choose one best meal out of all the best meals I have ever had, I will say it is my mother's Chicken Quenelles.

5. Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Good cheese and good butter. I like savoury foods more than sweet.

6. Have you ever been on a diet? If so, how did it go?

No, I've never needed to go on a diet. Not eating too late in the evening is my rule.

7. Do you take health supplements?

No, I get all I need from food – I am a great believer in fresh garlic and also ginger and water. When I first arrived in England from France, I worked in Lymington on the Isle of Wight and I would get my garlic fresh from the farm there. It's fantastic and totally different to the garlic you buy in supermarkets.

8. How do you relax?

I travel a lot and when I'm travelling by myself I love to relax by listening to music. I like the music of a band called Marion and I also enjoy listening to Supertramp and Pink Floyd. I also walk and go cycling. I never read – I don't have the concentration.

9. Teetotal or tipple?

Normally, I don't drink, but sometimes I do... I would take a glass of white wine; I don't drink spirits.

10. Stairs or lift?

The stairs, always the stairs. I was working in the BT Tower in London recently and I nearly freaked out in the lift. I had to use it as I needed to go up 37 floors, but, the whole time, I was wishing I had taken the stairs.

11. Do you have a daily exercise regime?

I alternate my daily exercise between press-ups and cardio on my bike. If I do an hour rather than 20 minutes, I give myself Sunday off.

12. Best tip for everyday fitness?

Do the plank – you can do it anywhere; the stairs, the garden, the car park....

13. On a scale of one to 10, how fit do you think you are and how fit would you like to be?

I think I'm a nine with mental fitness and probably a six or seven in physical fitness. I could do better.

14. Have you tried, or would you try, alternative therapy?

No, but I'm not against it. I just wouldn't have the time.

15. Were school sports happy times or do you have a memory you would rather forget?

I loved school sports enormously so I have only good memories of these times. I was the striker of the school and I was fantastic at handball and also pretty good at cross country. Was I a sporty kid? One million per cent, yes.

16. Did you ever have a health epiphany which made you change your lifestyle?

No, not really. I did get told off by mother, though, for putting salt in my children's food. She said I must not cook for my children the same way as I cook for my customers, so I went off salt after that.

17. Best health/lifestyle advice you were ever given and would pass on to others?

I would say, make sure you are breathing correctly and don't lift weights in the gym that are heavier than you need for your workout. I see these guys doing too much and not breathing properly through their routines. You should work your heart more than your muscles. I am also a fan of the Fartlek concept which is a type of interval training where you mix fast and slow speeds like running fast for so many minutes, followed by a more normal pace. Another piece of advice I would give is an obvious one – don't eat before you run.

18. Who inspires you or who would you try to emulate in terms of fitness / attitude to life?

Madonna, for sure. I have had lunch with her and gone shooting with her and I think her attitude to fitness and her body is fantastic. Her Jump video is amazing – everyone should watch it. I am also inspired by TV's survival expert Bear Grylls. I was asked to feature on his show, but, unfortunately, it clashed with the opening of my new Belfast restaurant. I think he is unbelievable, the way he can cling on to the top of a bridge with his bare hands. Mentally and physically, he is 10 out of 10.

19. What time do you normally get to bed and do you get enough sleep?

I can get to sleep any time from midnight to 3am so I probably don't get enough sleep. I do eat well, though.

20. Would you say you have a healthy attitude towards your own mortality?

Yes, I think I do. When I look back I can say, 'Je ne regrette rien'.

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