Parenting

Jean-Christophe Novelli’s family life hasn’t always been easy, but the MasterChef judge relishes being a dad

All about his life away from the kitchen.
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We’ve been introduced to French chef and restaurateur Jean-Christophe Novelli on our screens thanks to his role as a new judge on MasterChef Australia in 2024.

But outside of his career within the stressful hospitality industry, Jean-Christophe is a “proud dad and fortunate husband”.

Jean with his wife Michelle. (Image: Getty)

The 63-year-old is married to wife, Michelle Kennedy and the couple have been together since roughly 2005.

Prior to his current relationship with Michelle, Jean-Christophe has been married twice before. In 1986, he and first wife, Tina welcomed a daughter together, Christina Novelli who is now a DJ and songwriter.

Following his first divorce, the Frenchman married Anzelle Visser in 1999 who was a model and also worked at his restaurant Maison Novelli.

In his current marriage, Jean-Christophe has welcomed three sons with Michelle: Jean (born 2008), Jacques (born 2012) and Valentino (born 2016).

Jean with his three sons. (Image: Instagram)

The pair’s youngest son, Valentino was heartbreakingly diagnosed with stage four cancer at just six weeks old. Valentino was diagnosed with a neuroblastoma which is a rare and aggressive form of cancer that develops from immature nerve cells.

Jean-Christophe has spoken about the difficult and emotional time for his family.

“It was very, very difficult, and it’s still very, very difficult,” he said on The Matt Haycox Show podcast in 2023. “It’s very unfair anybody ends up having cancer, but especially when you are six weeks old, it is beyond anything you can believe.

“And, the thing is we were not ready. If you know something bad is gonna happen, you can prepare yourself, but when we found out, you have no idea how many times my wife and I were in tears. But, we had to stay strong for our family.”

Thankfully, in 2017 it was announced that Valentino was in remission.

Valentino was diagnosed with cancer at just six weeks old. (Image: Instagram)

However, the fight wasn’t over for Valentino whose cancer battle caused him to develop a rare chromosome disorder which leads to learning difficulties. Now, aged seven, little Valentino has also been diagnosed with autism.

“The cancer Valentino beat will have drastic consequences for his whole life. Firstly, he is autistic, but he’s not just autistic, he also has several learning disabilities,” Jean-Christophe said.

Following Valentino’s autism diagnosis, Jean-Christophe and Michelle appeared on Good Morning Britain where the chef praised his wife for her bravery, but confessed he wasn’t so sure about his own strength.

“Obviously, two weeks ago we found out the news that he is severely autistic,” said Jean-Christophe. “My wife, I don’t know how she copes. I keep saying, he’s alive. It’s another area where we don’t know how to cope. She does cope very well.” 

“Me personally, I don’t know. We are trying to face the situation.”

“It’s a lot to take in,” he told the Sunday Mirror. “We just think, ‘Oh my god, can we not just give this boy a break?’ 

“He’s been on a real long journey though and if he can beat cancer, he can handle this. He’s a little fighter and we are looking on the positive side.”

The Novelli family. (Image: Instagram)

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