Pandora: Zilli teaches how to balance the books

Wednesday 25 March 2009 01:00

These are difficult times for that peculiar breed of cuisinier that is the celebrity chef, so those surveying the takings with despair could do far worse than tear a leaf out of Aldo Zilli's book.

The enterprising restaurateur (also the face of Philadelphia cream cheese) has appeared on the website of after-dinner speaking agency JLA, with the offer of a day-long kitchen workshop for corporate groups.

At a cool £300 per person ( plusVAT), customers get an appetite-inducing eight-hour shift in the Zilli kitchen, as well as a dawn trip to Billingsgate fish market and quick lesson in filleting their finds. "It started out as being an occasional thing for a bit of fun," Zilli, left, explains. "But these days we have groups of ten about once or twice a month."

His place at JLA puts him in lofty company. As well as a choice selection from among the kitchen glitterati, the London-based company represents such illustrious figures as Neil Armstrong, Sir David Frost and Nick Leeson (who may be less useful in a recession).

Macintyre's risk management

*Donal MacIntyre commences his return as a Very Serious Journalist in the latest edition of Hello!, giving an interview of such gravity one almost forgets he ever donned a pair of skates and entered Dancing On Ice. "[My family] have received kidnapping threats," he murmers. "If it were just me in danger, I wouldn't care because I chose to do this job. But with a wife and children to look after, I need security. I've moved house in excess of 31 times." Pandora can only begin to imagine where this will lead. Another reality show, perhaps?

Mature totty felt tortured by his torso

Despite his latter-day incarnation as a bit of ageing totty, Bill Nighy insists he hasn't always been a success with women.

"I never had any sex in the Sixties," he told startled reporters at the premiere of his new film, The Boat That Rocked. "I was always too shy and I didn't want to take my top off. I have a difficult body – you don't want to see me with nothing on.

"I didn't want to show anybody because I knew that once word got out I'd be dead in the water and if the future Mrs Nighy was out there, I was going to remain single for the rest of my life," said the actor, 59. Instead, he favoured pursuits of a less risqué nature: "I'd give them a bit of tongue on the first date," he revealed.

The future looks bright for Peston

*Could the BBC's gloom-mongering business editor Robert Peston be suffering from a case of the green shoots? He certainly sounds rather chipper in an interview with next month's Readers Digest.

"There is no reason why people should put on hair shirts and eat dry biscuits," he counsels. "There will be a time, not far off, when it will be a brilliant time to set up a business. People who make money are those who take risks when everyone else is heading for the hills."

Third time lucky for Nancy's bid

*Nancy Dell'Olio faced stiff competition at Monday's Lighthouse gala auction for Aids charities. The lingerie-designing lawyer was seen to thrice raise her bidding paddle, only to be thwarted by higher offers. "First she tried a bid for Tracey Emin artwork," says an onlooker. "Then she went for Crashing Wave by Maggi Hambling, and then, right at the end, a private recital by cellist Jamie Walton, which went to Yasmin LeBon. Luckily, he agreed to do two so she could have one too." Such kindness.

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