CELEBRITY chef Jean Christophe Novelli is planning to buy a house and set up a branch of his cookery school in Shetland.
The Frenchman, notorious for his appearances on ITV’s Hell’s Kitchen, paid a three-day visit to the island at the weekend to launch the first ever Shetland Food Festival.
He was so enchanted with the scenery and the quality of the fresh shellfish and lamb on offer that on Saturday night he insisted one of the festival organisers take him to view a house in Skeld.
He told festival organisers that the isles would be the perfect place for a branch of his Novelli Academy Cookery School, which is located near his home outside Luton and which he runs personally. No definite decisions have been taken, but he is taking it very seriously.
“He was truly blown away by what he saw here. He has fallen in love with the place. He is extremely enthusiastic about developing his links with Shetland,” said one organiser. “He said he was the sort of guy who when he decides to do something acts quickly. He would certainly be made very welcome here.”
Michelin-star holder Novelli, regularly voted the world’s sexiest chef in polls, said he always knew that produce from Britain’s most northerly island was good because chefs in five-star hotels in London spoke about it with great reverence. But he was taken aback by the exceptional quality.
Appearing at the 10-day event, designed to showcase the best of island food, he said: “If I could wake every morning and get produce of this quality it would be amazing. Price is not an issue – it is all about quality.
“For a long time Shetland produce has been a well-kept secret but I think it is important to promote the quality of the produce to those who may not be aware of just how great the food is.”
Novelli visited the Blueshell Mussel farm near Brae and several other local producers during his visit, even cooking the mussels he harvested for the workers in the messroom.