Chef, Gino D’Acampo admits he is used to taking charge in every area of life and hopes once he gets into the jungle his fellow celebs will see him as the natural leader of the group.
“I am a bit of a control freak,” he says. “I have always been a leader. Everything I do, in my business, my restaurant, my family, with friends, I have always, always been the leader.
“I don’t bully people to put me in charge. I like to put people in a situation where they think, ‘We should let him do it.’ I let them choose. That is my rule in life.
“If something goes wrong, I can always say, ‘You wanted me to be the leader, you didn’t have the balls to do it yourself, what do you want now?’”
But although Gino loves nothing more than being in control he hopes that a stint in the jungle might help him overcome another problem he has – not being able to switch off.
He says: “I need to learn how to relax, that is problem I have, that I can’t relax, sit down and just think about nothing.”
Gino reckons he will get along with his camp-mates – as long as they understand his sense of humour. “I’m the kind of guy who gets on with everyone. The problem I have is that I’ve got a very weird sense of humour, I’m very sarcastic. Sometimes I talk too fast without actually thinking about what I’m saying just because I think it’s funny. In fact, one of my worries is that I’m going to say some kind of remark that’s not going to go down well …but most of the time I am joking. Seriously, I just try to wind people up, nothing more than that.
“I make friends very easily, although I have to say I also go off people easily if they have a game plan or if they are stupid. I hate stupid people. I don’t have the time, I can’t be bothered. I don’t like people that are not sincere and I don’t like people when they believe one thing and say the complete opposite.
“If you think I’m an idiot then show me that’s what you think, don’t waste my time. If you don’t like the colour red, well, tell me, because it makes my life easier as well. I cannot be bothered to put flowers around people all the time.
“I would probably give them a couple of chances but I’m a great believer that if somebody annoys you it’s best to say, ‘Mate, you know what – you go on one side and I’ll go on the other. Don’t bother me.’
“Annoying people would be anyone who doesn’t really have a lot to say. I don’t like to talk about myself; I like to know more than I tell.
“I would much rather if I’m annoying someone for them to come and say, ‘Gino, you know what, I didn’t really like that comment,’ and I’d say, ‘Sorry about that,’ and life goes on. But if they start to bitch I don’t like that.
“If I do not sleep well, that really annoys me – then you are going to have a really bad day. I don’t mind if I don’t eat but I do mind if I don’t sleep.”
Music-lover Gino says if he could pick his ideal camp mate it would be Rod Stewart or Paul McCartney.
He says: “I am a big fan. I would ask them so many questions and I’d want to know so many things about these rock and roll legends. Nobody knows that I play the guitar, very badly. I have been playing for the last 15 years or so. I taught myself. I like Oasis and Coldplay, that kind of style of music.”
Gino knows the camp will probably be looking to him to work wonders with whatever food they’re allowed and he is unlikely to be fazed, no matter how bizarre the raw ingredients are. “I cooked donkey testicles with sage and butter when I was on the island of Sardinia and, trust me, they are absolutely amazing. It’s one of their specialities and it was very good. The texture is a little bit like fois gras, crispy on the outside and soft and mushy on the inside. It’s quite interesting, like brain, more or less that texture.
“I have cooked on camping stoves but I hope the utensils they have in the jungle are good – a good pan or frying pan, something like that, otherwise it’s going to be a nightmare.
“What I’m worried about is because I’m a chef they will think I can come up with miracles. You know, if you have rice and water there is very little you can do, even if you are the best chef in the world. I think they are going to expect something I won’t be able to deliver if there are few ingredients.”
If they strike lucky with the food stocks in camp and there are celebrities keen to brush up on their cooking skills Gino is only too happy to help. “I guess if we have eggs and one of them wants to learn how to make a poached egg I can do that. But if I have an egg and they want to know how to make fresh pasta that’s going to be a bit difficult … It all depends on the ingredients.”
And if there are other keen chefs in the camp he won’t mind sharing the cooking – as long as they are up to scratch. “Let’s say for arguments sake there is another chef there, I wouldn’t have a problem with him or her cooking. To me it would be brilliant because it takes a lot of pressure off and I’m going to get served for once. How cool is that? But of course if she or he trying to do something I know is completely wrong I’m going to say something.
“I would probably give them a chance. I like to encourage people to cook so I will never discourage anyone. I would probably say, ‘Okay, let me see what you can do,’ but if they completely f**k it up, you know, I would have to step in and say: ‘You know what, why don’t you let me do that, then at least we eat.’”
If Gino has to jump out of a plane to get to camp he won’t be too worried. He says: “I like to do adventurous things. I went sky diving with the Red Devils for charity. Why not? It was fantastic, absolutely amazing. I was very scared when the plane went up but once we started flying it’s an amazing feeling. I don’t like to climb mountains or anything like that but I did the London marathon last year in fours hours and 13 minutes.”
Even so, he is nervous at the prospect of heading into bush camp – and facing Bushtucker Trials, especially if anything edible is involved. He says: “If I think about it, start to analyse everything and think about what I am going to do, I’m never going to get on the plane. I know people are going to think, ‘Oh, he is going to be fine eating those live bugs’, but I really don’t want to.”
He has been doing what he can to prepare for jungle life but time has been against him. “I’ve been trying to go to the gym but I’m so busy I don’t have the chance. I’m trying to give up smoking because the day I get into the jungle that is it. And everybody has told me that it is a crazy idea, because I’m going to be under a lot of pressure.
“I stopped smoking in the past and did it very successfully for four years but last year, like an idiot, I picked it up again. My kids, Luciano, seven, and Rocco, four, never knew that I smoked and I don’t want them to see me so I’m going to stop that. I’m not a heavy smoker; 6-10 cigarettes a day, but still too many.”
So, apart from the odd cigarette, what else is he going to miss? “The thing I am going to miss the most is television. For me, a relaxing day is sitting on the sofa watching Only Fools and Horses. I can watch the whole series in 24 hours, no worries, again and again and again. So that’s the kind of thing I like to do to relax, to put my brain in a comfortable zone. I’m going to miss being by myself. I prefer my own company. For me, the perfect Saturday night is me, by myself. I cook something, relax, and I’m very content.
“I don’t think I will have a problem with the cameras because you cannot see where they are and after the first day you are going to forget. I think I would find it more difficult if they were to do a documentary for two weeks with a camera in my face all the time.”
For Gino, the jungle experience is a rare opportunity to escape the pressures of his hectic work schedule – and to reconnect with his inner child.
He say: “I do This Morning every Tuesday with Holly and Phillip. We have just finished Ready, Steady Cook and I am doing a new series for ITV called The Secret Chef. I’m working on a book which is out in January, so this is going to be a three week holiday for me. You imagine, every time I go on holiday, my bloody mobile phone keeps going off. So 90% of the reason I am going is to say, ‘I’ll see you in five weeks.’ Nobody can reach me, nobody knows where I am, and nobody knows my number.
“Only two people know that I am leaving; my wife, because she will eventually come out as well and my best friend Marco because he is looking after the business for me. I’ve been married eight years and my wife asked, ‘Why do you do it?’ It’s because I have never been in a situation for three weeks where I won’t have anything to do with business and people calling me all the time saying, ‘Should we do this? Should we do that?’
“I want to rediscover Gino D’Acampo if I can. The little boy that I loved, the little boy that was always relaxed about everything, the little boy that had fun with the simple things; I think I have lost that. Now it is now all about the business, the family, what to do about the kids, too many bloody responsibilities. The only responsibility I want to have is to pick a good bed, sleep and rediscover myself, which will be nice. It is simple.”