Jean-Christophe Novelli to reveal all about appearance on Celebrity Hunted at special Belfast events

Celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli will talk about his experiences on Channel 4’s Celebrity Hunted at two special events in Belfast this month.

Friday, 1st November 2019, 7:00 am
Jean-Christophe Novelli and Aldo Zilli on Celebrity Hunted

The Michelin-starred chef, 58, took part in the TV series with fellow Italian chef Aldo Zilli, 63.

The show follows a team of eight celebrities as they try to evade being caught by a crack team of hunters.

The famous French chef took part in the popular show with the hope of winning a share of the £100,000 prize, which is in aid of Stand UP to Cancer.

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And later this month, the father-of-four will be in Belfast to share ‘The Unseen Story’ of his appearance on Celebrity Hunted over lunch and dinner at his restaurant, Novelli at City Quays.

‘‘I will recount the stories behind the scenes. There are a lot of people who are obsessed with the show. I kept a diary and took notes,’’ he said.

Novelli, who visits his Belfast restaurant on average every two weeks, said he thought taking part in the programme would be ‘Mickey Mouse, but it wasn’t.’’

‘‘I thought it will be easy, it’s TV, but it wasn’t. The way they do it is very clever. The hunters are real hunters, they are not actors.’’

And trying to evade constant surveillance made him ‘‘very paranoid’’.

‘‘I am quite strong and I can take a lot, but you come to the point where day after day, it’s a lot.

‘‘We were offered a psychiatric assessment after the show and even now the offer still stands. This demonstrates the level of paranoia that we had and how serious the show was.’’

And speaking of the tension between himself and Aldo Zilli, he said: ‘‘We have known each other for 30 years, but what was amazing was that straight away on day one we were in a helicopter and I thought it was going to be a nightmare with him, and he probably thought that about me as well; it was like playing tennis with stones.

‘‘Several times we had no food and also we didn’t get on. At one point I was going to leave him on his own and carry on myself because I really wanted to win.’’

Novelli added that at the start of the series he wanted to flee to Ireland.

‘‘When I left to go on the run I couldn’t plan too much but half way through I was hoping to get a mono plane and fly into Belfast City airport.

‘‘The plan was to hide in the basement at Novelli at City Quays then move over to a friend’s house then in the back of a fish van on to my wife Michelle’s great aunt Kitty who lives in Kilrush, Co Clare.

‘‘Sadly we were told this couldn’t happen as we weren’t allowed more than half a mile from the coast. So we were told that the plane wouldn’t be allowed to take off.

Novelli took part in the show following his son Valentino’s battle with a rare form of cancer, neuroblastoma.

The three-year-old was given the all-clear from the cancer diagnosis a year ago, but has now been diagnosed with severe autism.

‘‘Valentino is good. he’s alive, from where we have come from, that is quite something.

‘‘He can’t speak so we have to learn sign language to communicate with him.’’