Jean Christophe Novelli and Jim Mulholland, grand chef of 'Novelli at City Quays,' Belfast.


What is your earliest food memory?

Jean Christophe Novelli (JCN): Baked tomatoes made by my mother. Or anything cooked by my grandmothers. They came from opposite ends of France, one from the North and the other from the South. In terms of food, they were like strangers. The gastronomy of the regions differ so much, but I love both equally. It always reminds me of home. 


What are the most important things for people to learn in the kitchen?

JCN: To be yourself. Do things to express, not to impress. If you start to learn things just to show off, forget it. It should come from a place of passion and interest.

To constantly be versatile, not rigid with a recipe, it should vary. Nature varies, nature is inconsistent. Sometimes the best discoveries are happy accidents.


What is your current favourite ingredient to cook with:

JCN: Vanilla. I love to make tomato provencale with a touch of vanilla. Just a tiny bit adds depth of flavour and a touch of sweetness to contrast the acidity of tomatoes. 


When you cook at home, what do you make?

Jim Mulholland (JM): Tagine of lamb, duck confit or classic Irish comfort food, like a good stew. That’s what I was raised on. Failing that, maybe a Belfast fry. You can’t beat it.


What is your pet peeve in the kitchen?

JCN: Onions, believe it or not. Even as a French man, I just can't stand them.


Who would be your dream dinner party guests?

JM: Keith Floyd and Rick Stein, two of my food heroes.


On a night off, what are your favourite restaurants to visit in Belfast?

JM: I really like to keep up with the food scene here. I love Ox, Muddler's Club and I just tried a new restaurant called Bubba last week. They serve Turkish style tapas which were fantastic. Outside of Belfast it has to be Brunel's in Newcastle, Co. Down. The chef there is on a different wavelength. 


For more information on 'Novelli at City Quays,' click here.