His latest literary venture, Gennaro’s Italian Bakery, pays homage to his lifelong passion for baking, recalling the hours spent as a young boy at his uncle’s bakery in Minori on the Amalfi Coast, and memories of tucking into freshly baked bread in his family home.
Gennaro hopes his collection of easy-to-create recipes will encourage more people to take the plunge.
“Everybody should make their own bread!” he enthuses, throwing his hands in the air.
“You can even go into a supermarket and buy a mix, just add water and bake it,” adds the chef, who left Italy for London aged 20. “The secret is to use good flour, that’s all.”
The book features a hearty mix of regional and traditional fare with a modern twist, from Parmesan Breadsticks and Pumpkin Bread to Focaccia, Pizza, Brioche and Biscotti (“just like Nonna used to make”).
The foreword goes to his protege, Oliver.
“Jamie is incredible,” gushes Contaldo, who first met 41-year-old Oliver when he worked under him at London’s Neal Street Restaurant in the Nineties. “When you show him how to do something the Italian way, he takes it in straight away; and when he does it, he does it better than me!”
While he’s heavily involved with Oliver’s ever-expanding Italian restaurant chain, creating dishes and training chefs, the veteran foodie’s friendship with Oliver goes far beyond the kitchen.
“Jamie considers me his London father, and I’ll always consider him my boy,” Contaldo confides. “I have six children [as well as the twins with current wife Liz, he has three from a former marriage], and the sixth one is Jamie.
“My father always believed, which he was right to, that Jamie was my son. He died believing that.
“I had to learn from him how beautiful and wonderful the world is,” Contaldo continues, eyes widening as he talks about Oliver. “And I learned that to give is much better than to receive, and to help is incredible.
“This is his philosophy and mine as well. We don’t take away – the world is beautiful so let’s enjoy it.”
:: Gennaro Contaldo’s Italian Bakery by Gennaro Contaldo, photography by Dan Jones, is published by Pavilion, priced £20. Available now