Celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli will have a very special reason to celebrate this Christmas: his 15-month-old son Valentino is in remission from cancer. In an exclusive festive family photoshoot he told HELLO!: “I can’t wait to wake up on Christmas morning with my fiancée Michelle and our three boys around me. “After the nightmare ordeal we’ve been through, this time of year means so much more than it ever did. Last Christmas was the worst of my life, but this year it’s going to be the best.”
Little Valentino was six weeks old when he was diagnosed with stage 4S neuroblastoma, an extremely rare form of childhood cancer, which had grown into an inoperable tumour around his neck. As well as the heart-breaking prospect of losing him to the aggressive condition, Jean-Christophe also faced losing Michelle when she was rushed to hospital with deep vein thrombosis on his 56th birthday.
“It was a very dark time,” he told HELLO!. “The agony and uncertainty drained me; I lost my spark.” However, Michelle pulled through and after six gruelling rounds of chemotherapy, their little boy is on the road to recovery. “Valentino is growing stronger every day,” said Jean-Christophe, who has three more children – Christina, 31, from his first marriage - Jean, nine, and five-year-old Jacques. “Remembering how awful it was when he never smiled during his treatment, it’s the best sound in the world to hear him laugh.”
READ: Exclusive! Jean-Christophe Novelli and fiancee Michelle Kennedy overjoyed as their son is declared cancer-free
With a nightmare year behind him, life is looking up for the award-winning chef. As well as launching a new cookery academy at The Corran Resort and Spa in south-west Wales, he is set to open his first restaurant in Northern Ireland – The Novelli at City Quays in the Marriott Hotel in Belfast in April. The father-of-four has another exciting plan for 2018, too: he’ll finally be walking up the aisle with Michelle, with little Valentino playing a starring role on the big day. “Seeing him as a little pageboy alongside his brothers will be so sweet,” said Michelle. “With him in our lives we thank our lucky stars every day.”
To see more of Jean-Christophe Novelli with his son Valentino and family, pick up the latest copy of Hello! magazine.