Who the Hell Is Jean-Christophe Novelli?

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Photo via shropshirestar.com

If you were bored and channel surfing at around 11pm Monday night you might have come across Bravo’s latest addition to its foodie lineup: Chef Academy. A supposedly non-competitive show (though if you fail three tests you will be kicked off), it's hosted by the pouty, perfectly coiffed, very French Jean-Christophe Novelli, a man who attempts to transform non-professional cooks into culinary experts. While he’s quite well-known in Europe, most of us stateside might only have recognized Monsieur Novelli from a challenge from Top Chef past. (It was the Diet Dr. Pepper Quickfire that Radhika won. Remember her? Us neither.)

But oh, there’s so much more. Though we’re not sure how long Chef Academy will last, we thought we might as well let you in on the history of Novelli, the man who may soon be replacing Colicchio in the bedroom fantasies of home cooks everywhere.

Born in Arras, Northern France, in 1961, Jean-Christophe began his culinary career at the young age of 14 in a bakery, and at 20 he became a private chef to the renowned Rothschild family. In 1983, J.C .moved to England in order to run Keith Floyd’s Malser’s Arms restaurant in Devon. Shortly thereafter, he won a Michelin star at Le Provence in Lymington, which he followed up by becoming head chef at the Four Seasons hotel on London's Hyde Park Corner. From there, in 1996 he went on to found his own London restaurant with help from friend Marco Pierre White, Maison Novelli, for which he won a Michelin star. Restaurants in France and South Africa followed, and Novelli threatened to open in the U.S. as well.

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Photograph via dailymail.co.uk

But amidst the success and the stars and the titles (he was voted AA’s 1995 Chef of the Year by the chefs of Great Britain) financial troubles were brewing, and Chef Novelli was deep in debt. He lost all of his London restaurants. He was smoking 50 cigarettes a day, “nearly became an alcoholic” according to The Daily Mail’s Petronella Wyatt (who, and here's some foreshadowing, interviewed him in bed). But thank god for TV.

In 2003 Jean-Christophe appeared on The Games, a British reality show in which celebrities competed against each other in sporting events like diving and weight lifting (we’re sure the 40 cigarettes a day really helped out there). Then, in 2005 he became a head chef on ITV's Hell’s Kitchen UK for two seasons, which made him a British household name. See the related cookbook, co-authored with Gary Rhodes, "Hell's Kitchen" Cookbook: Kitchen Hell, Food Heaven (Amazon).

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Hell's Kitchen UK

Also in 2005, he opened the Novelli Academy, a cooking school at his Hertfordshire farmhouse, and the gastropub A Touch of Novelli (we're beginning to see a pattern with these names). The TV appearances continued: In 2006 he appeared on The X Factor: Battle of the Stars, the celebrity edition of Britain's American Idol. He made regular appearances on British cooking show …Cooks!, and has been a contestant on Family Fortunes (think Family Feud) as well as You’re Fired, an Apprentice follow-up.

So it only makes sense that the Brit TV-saturated chef célèbre would, at last, make his way over to American airwaves in Bravo's Chef Academy. And his sex-drenched persona will fit in perfectly with the general Los Angeles population. Oh yes, sex-drenched. As Wyatt pointed out in her Daily Mail article, Jean-Christophe has described himself as a “walking sex manual.” He is twice divorced and has been known to enjoy the many pleasures of the flesh with, well, mostly models including South African model Anzelle (who he obliged by making her his second wife, briefly), Patsy Kensit, and others — including a computer programmer named Joanne who spoke to the press about the “sex marathons" she and J.C. shared. Joanne also revealed that he slept in his socks — not that the man sleeps very much. During his in-bed interview with Wyatt (it was a stunt to promote breakfast in bed…we don’t understand either) he told her that he is “so hyperactive he has to take sleeping pills and Valium, and even then he only manages four hours’ sleep a night.”

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This is not to say that Jean-Christophe is pure uninhibited libido. He has been in a committed relationship with Michelle Kennedy, his girlfriend of four years with whom he had a baby boy in 2008. (He also has a twenty-year-old daughter, Christina, from his first marriage.) Besides the kids, Novelli has 21 dogs, mostly Doberman Pinschers. So even if you don’t like his show you should probably keep that to yourself — it’s best not to anger a sleep-deprived, underfed, drug-addled, French sex addict who has a fleet of angry dogs.

Bravo’s claims that Novelli was "voted 'World's Sexiest Chef' by The New York Times, but we can't find the original article. What we did find was a NYT article from 1999 about how the British magazine Harper's & Queen "had voted him the world's fifth-sexiest man." Perhaps the article isn't online for some reason? Or perhaps Bravo is making things up?

Also, for what is possibly the most self-indulgent website ever check out Jean-Christophe's web shrine to himself.

Video: Gordon Ramsay Punks Jean-Christophe Novelli

Video: Jean Christophe Novelli Shilling for Volkswagen

Video: Jean-Christophe Novelli's Hell's Kitchen Showreel

—Justine Sterling

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2 Comments

Comment Feed

  1. Moira

    He may be pouty and very French, but unless this is a adults-only channel, he is not quaffed, perfectly or otherwise. Maybe you mean coiffed?

  2. Amber

    Well, this show makes me want to try to cook some things so I suppose we can add miracle worker to the list of his attributes!

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