A frequent visitor since launching his Novelli restaurant in the AC Hotel by Marriott Belfast five years ago, he is now set to make dining at the four-star waterfront venue a more casual affair with the addition of a new outdoor terrace.
His enthusiasm for all things Northern Ireland was almost palpable as he spoke to Sunday Life.
“I promise you I am excited like a little boy. I always feel like that when I am coming to Belfast. Every time I come over it is like a treat,” he said.
“As a Frenchman coming over to one of the best places on the planet where people respect you and are very friendly, it makes me realise how very lucky I am.”
The chef, who is currently appearing with Corrie’s Samia Longchambon on ITV’s Cooking with the Stars, combines his TV work with running an award-winning cookery school in Hertfordshire and his Belfast restaurant.
Away from his career, the 62-year-old is a devoted father of three boys.
He and wife Michelle have come through a series of traumas, with youngest son Valentino, who turns seven in September, battling cancer as a baby and having special needs.
“My son has a range of mental issues and we can’t travel like we used to as a family together,” said Jean-Christophe.
“My wife will occasionally go away on holiday with my other two boys, Jean (14) and Jacques (10), and I stay at home with the little one.
“Planning something is not as easy, but we are getting there and dealing with it.
“It is a sad and traumatic story, but I know we are not the only ones. There are a lot of unfortunate young human beings who are going through hell.
“The cancer is managed for the moment, but he still has regular check-ups.
“He was so young when everything happened to him, not even three months old, and he had to fight.
“Now he has issues with his brain, so many little things. He has problems with his eyes, he doesn’t speak and never will, he has to be fed and he doesn’t know if something is cold or hot.
“It is unfair and very difficult for my family. Every six months something new happens we did not know about.
“We know that there is nothing happening on this planet that will change our situation, and we worry about what is going to happen to him when he is older, but he is a very happy child and has a very strong character. He is lovely.”
The Michelin star cook would love to bring his family to Belfast, but for the time being it isn’t possible.
As well as flying back and forward to run his busy restaurant, he is a regular on TV cookery programmes, most recently Cooking with the Stars.
In the show, hosted by Emma Willis and Tom Allen, eight celebrities are paired with professional chefs who mentor them in a bid to transform them from amateur to expert in a matter of weeks.
In the first episode, which was aired on July 4, he was seen putting Samia, who plays Maria Connor in Coronation Street, through her paces in the kitchen with an Italian recipe.
Jean-Christophe told Sunday Life: “When you do TV, it is always quite beneficial and good for the business, and when you do TV and enjoy yourself, that is even better.
“I’m very competitive and I love it if it is a show about cooking and is also competitive, which this is.
“This year I had the great pleasure of cooking alongside Samia, teaching her and competing with her. It was fantastic.
“It is nice to see how a person progresses and gets better and better.
“The head of ITV and the CEO of Marks & Spencer (show sponsors) recently said it was officially the best cooking show on ITV, the most watched on the channel, and it’s nice to hear that.
“The show is definitely growing, and this year you will see quite a bit of drama.”
On his many trips to Northern Ireland, he has been blown away not only by the quality of our ingredients but also by the dedication of his colleagues at the AC Hotel.
The business launched on Belfast’s Maritime Mile five years ago and is marking the milestone by investing £300,000 into a new outdoor terrace.
The Jean-Christophe Novelli Restaurant very quickly became a popular choice for food lovers visiting or living in the city.
Guests can wine and dine while enjoying unrivalled views of the Titanic Quarter and the River Lagan.
The new terrace will serve up a varied menu, with a selection of tapas, Mediterranean-inspired dishes and traditional Irish classics, as well as an extensive cocktail and wine list.
Jean-Christophe said: “Every time I come to Belfast, which is maybe 300 times now, I put on my running shoes and go running along the quays because I love the water.
“I pass the Titanic museum and take pictures for my kids.
“I always run as far as I can, until there is no access, and then come back over the bridge.
“I think it is not difficult to do well as a chef here because the suppliers are so brilliant. You don’t have to have a magical touch because the ingredients are so wonderful.
“It excites me to see the produce, and after nearly 50 years as a chef, I am still passionate about it.
“The views of the water are one of the reasons I took the job, and the new terrace takes full advantage of those views.
“The terrace is really well designed, with the right space and the right view. It is just impeccable and I am very excited by our new al fresco menu.
“It is a place for everyone — locals passing on bicycles, joggers, families, local businesspeople.
“Anyone will feel welcome and comfortable. I’m very impressed by it.”
As someone who visits Belfast at least once a month, Jean-Christophe paid a heartfelt tribute to his colleagues in the hotel for helping make his job so special.
“It has been five years now since the restaurant opened, and I am as excited about it as I was on my first day,” he said.
“Everyone from front of house, the kitchen, receptionist, room service, room cleaners… they all make an incredible team, and I mean that from my heart.
“I love working there. It is such a lovely place. Adam Jones, our new head chef, is one of Northern Ireland’s most talented young chefs.
“Also Paula Stuart, the general manager, is like the captain of a ship. I’ve been around the world and met a lot of people, but she is exceptional.”
For more information about the new terrace and the menu, visit www.ac-hotels.com and follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram