‘ONLY journalists, radio show hosts and TV presenters tend to ask me that question,” says Gino D’Acampo while we are discussing the question and answer section of a stage touring version of his TV cookery shows to York and Newcastle.

“Have you made your peace with Paul Young?” was my suggestion for a question he might face, based on the fact that D’Acampo was jailed in 1998 for two years for burgling the pop singer’s home.

Initially, the popular chef who has turned his life around after that early indiscretion, opts to ignore the comment. But it’s clearly festering away, because he opts to answer later.

“You can get the wrong question, but all sorts of things come up. Then it’s up to me whether I choose to answer or not. Doing a q&a for 90 minutes is not an easy thing and not many people do it. I like it, but if I don’t want to answer I just move on.

“We underestimate people most of the time. People are usually very intelligent and polite and the last thing they want to do is to put me in a situation where I’m uncomfortable. Nobody is going to pay money to sit in an audience and make them uncomfortable.

“Everybody has done something in the past and life moves on. I’m a great believer in telling my children about turning my life around and I work a lot with younger teenagers when they are in trouble. I will do a question and answer with them because I understand why my story, in particular, is a fascination for them. I tell everybody that you haven’t lived a good life if you haven’t made a mistake. The secret of making a mistake is not to regret it, or regret it until a certain point, but to learn from it. Once you learn the mistake you made, I guarantee you won’t want to go back to making the same mistake,” says D’Acampo.

He prefers to put a positive spin on what happened to him.

“Get on with your life and learn to become a better man and that’s the way I live my life,” he adds.

I ask him about the challenges he faces trying to cook on stage in front of a live audience.

“The thing is, I’ve been doing the Gino’s Italian Escapes for the past three years and I’ve just returned from Sicily, which will be in a programme that goes out in November. I’ve been travelling the south of Italy and done all the islands. Then, I thought, ‘Let’s put something together we can put in the theatre’.

“I don’t think there are too many challenges. I’m going to tell the audience everything they want to know about Italy from the south to the north to the islands and we’re doing live recipes to cook. Anything that goes wrong is part of the show. The unexpected can, and usually does, happen. You can spill a bit of food or oil on the floor and then it’s slippery. I usually pick people at random out of the audience and sometimes they get covered in flour. You never know, and that’s why I love to do these things,” he says.

He jokes that as a result of requiring a hotplate and oven on stage he has to have a fully equipped fireman at the side of the stage.

“I think when we organised this, by law we have to have a fireman and we need somebody in case I cut myself. At the end of the day you’re cooking with heat and hot oil and anything can happen. Hopefully, we’re not going to burn down a theatre,” he jokes.

D’Acampo says that the interaction with the audience is the best part because most of the time he’s talking to a TV camera and it’s not as exciting as a lot of people staring at him and smiling.

He recalls filming ITV show This Morning and Let’s Do Lunch, with co-star Melanie Sykes, when moments where the gas supply hasn’t been turned on or a meal gets burned become part of the act.

“I always tell people, ‘This isn’t burned, it’s caramelised’,” he jokes.

“I remember Mel cutting her finger very badly and you just have to get on with it. She was slicing something, but you put on a cheeky smile and the show must go on. You need paper and disinfectant and 30 seconds are wasted before you get on with it.”

The Naples-born cook is married to Jessica and they have three children, Luciano, Rocco and Mia. He is building a chain of restaurants in the UK andfrequently returns to Italy to film, teach and recharge his batteries. Working with food and clearly enjoying ingredients like cheese, which TV audiences saw him wolfing down recently, should see the celebrity chef topping the scales far more heavily.

“Rushing around my restaurants and doing a lot of walking when I film in Italy and a bit of swimming and running keeps me thin. I think it’s a good thing that I eat well. Don’t get me wrong, I go for fish and chips sometimes or the odd kebab, but you need more healthy food than bad. I think it’s also genetic because my mother can eat like a dinosaur and she’s a skinny little thing that doesn’t put any weight on,” he jokes.

D’Acampo says he enjoys the coolness and friendliness he finds in the North.

“You get on with the weather and when it’s too bad you lock yourselves in a pub,” he says.

The chef thinks he currently holds eight to ten Guinness World Records, including running across custard for the longest time, but is focusing hard on a book for the third Gino’s Italian Escapes TV series.

“I’m opening a restaurant in Manchester very soon (in about October time) and I’ll be opening in Euston Station in about the second week in September.

“I always go back to Italy for holidays because I live half my life on the island of Sardinia. I have a house and a boat there. What is the career that we have? You do your best and, hopefully, you do well, but you have to remember who you are and what things you like to do. I never get myself completely into the celebrity world and forget what life is all about.”

n Gino’s Italian Escape tour, October 30, York Barbican. November 6, Newcastle Tyne Theatre