In my role as an Easy Team ambassador for Zanussi, I recently got the chance to meet up with the team's Captain, Gino D'Acampo, in Newcastle's Fenwick. I was taken up to the store's personal shopping suite and as I walked down the corridor, I could already hear laughter from the man himself. Outside his room, was his rider of simply his favourite crisps, Wotsits. His personality was zealous as ever, as we talked about everything from cooking essential, easy recipes and making a mess in the kitchen.
One of the things you must hear most often, is that people are too busy to cook. You're obviously very busy, but I bet you can still find the time to be in the kitchen, any tips for the rest of us?
Everyone has got some time, especially at the weekend. I plan my meals at the weekend, so perhaps on Sunday I'll make a big stew and use it throughout the week. I can put some in a pie for Monday, with some rice on Tuesday, pasta on Wednesday and some goes in the freezer for later. At the weekend you can take your time and enjoy being there, and enjoy the outcome for days later.
Are you someone who's always been interested in cooking?
Yes, from my grandfather, I would always see him cooking and always wanted to cook with him.
Are your children interested in being in the kitchen too?
They love it, Rocco made the most wonderful Ferrero Rocher cake last week. It's interesting as he really likes sweet and Luciano prefers savory. I think the key to getting children interested in food, is to not be scared of letting them in the kitchen. Yes they're going to make a mess, but I make a mess, and that's the creativity.
You must always have people inviting themselves around for dinner parties, are people intimidated about cooking for you?
Yes they are, but they really shouldn't be. I think the key is to not try and do anything too ambitious. Don't try to impress me; I'm very hard to impress. I always say to do your speciality, and if that's a fried egg on toast, make that for me. I once said this to a friend, and I turned up to his house, where he had ten bowls of good quality crisps laid out. At first I was like "what is this?", but he said this was his speciality, and it turned out to be a great night.
Did they include Wotsits?
Of course they did!
Can you suggest an easy dessert to make?
Zabaione, as it's simply egg yolk, sugar with a bit of Marsala wine. All you have to do is give it a good whip, and there's dessert.
What are some of the ingredients that you can never be without in your kitchen?
Olive oil, I probably use it everyday. Make sure you have a good quality oil, and don't just go for the biggest brand, look and see where it comes from. Of course Italian is best. Pasta is also a must, as it can make a mix of ingredients into a meal. Others would be tinned tomatoes, a good balsamic vinegar and beans. Rice is another good staple, as I love to make risotto.
Have your tastes changed over the years?
My palate has certainly changed over the years. There are some things I've never liked, such as cucumber and coriander, and I still don't like those. But in the last few years I've definitely developed a taste for more fruity things. I used to hate things such as dried apricot and jelly babies, but now I'm the king of jelly babies.
What would be one of your top tips when it comes to cooking?
Don't try to do too much, Italian cooking is actually quite simple. I always think that if you can't identify at least 70% of the ingredients used, it's not a successful dish. Use a few good ingredients and keep it simple.