Jean-Christophe Novelli said he is "glad to be back on the starting line" as he prepares for his first restaurant opening in 10 years in Belfast's new AC Hotel by Marriott.
The celebrity chef will open a bespoke-for-Belfast brasserie bearing his own name in the design-led, lifestyle hotel in City Quays, this April.
Speaking to The Caterer he revealed his passion for the produce he and "fantastic" executive head chef Jim Mulholland have discovered and his excitement to open his first venue in Northern Ireland.
He said: "The most exciting thing is the suppliers, they are all local, from the land, from the sea. We are meeting with all our suppliers, it's just fantastic."
Mulholland met Novelli, who he describes as an "absolute gentleman", at an agricultural show celebrating the produce of local communities.
Speaking of their joint venture, Mulholland said: "It will be a lot of Jean's influence there, his style, his techniques, hopefully what I'm bringing to the table is the locality and the stuff we have around us."
Mulholland, formally of Ballyrobin Country Lodge Hotel, in Belfast, said Novelii's French influence, technicality and knowledge will be at the core of the brasserie's offering.
For Novelli the opening of Novelli at City Quays comes after a decade spent running his training academy and raising his three sons, aged nine, five and 17 months.
He described the new project, within a £25m development, as vastly different from those of his early career when he would have "£500 cash and a bank loan" to keep him going.
The technical advancements in cooking equipment have also struck Novelli who said a stove could now be "played like a piano".
The French chef explained: "There is no excuse today for not doing well and I'm just delighted to be back on the starting line again."
Novelli describes his younger years as "mad" but insists he now "takes the time to renew".
His involvement in the 188-bedroom Belfast hotel has spanned the years since "it was a car park", allowing him to advise on all aspects of his new 120-cover restaurant, which will have views across the River Lagan.
The former Michelin star holder said customers can expect "exciting recipes, fantastic service and great hospitality."
The menu will change with the seasons, adapting to the ingredients available, with Novelli's team in constant communication with their suppliers.
He said: "You don't have to be laborious or technically superior, you just have to describe what you can get."
Novelli said the Belfast opening would be the first of many, but added that no others would be added until it is "working perfectly".
The AC Hotel will be managed by Interstate. Stephen Roach, vice president of food and beverage for the company, said: "Jean Christophe Novelli is such as well-respected name in the hospitality and restaurant industry, it's such an honour to be working closely with him on this Novelli at City Quays Belfast project."
Novelli left school at the age of 14 to work in a bakery and later became a personal chef to Elie de Rothschild. He moved to Britain in 1983 and went on to run Keith Floyd's Maltster's Arms in Devon. Novelli was awarded a Michelin star four times between 1991 and 2000, the first coming while he was chef patron of Gordleton Mill in Lymington, Hampshire.
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