MONTREAL — A Quebec celebrity chef is defending his reputation after a report the carefully crafted narrative about his life and professional experience isn’t entirely true.
Giovanni Apollo released a sworn affidavit following an in-depth Montreal La Presse investigation published Thursday that raised questions about his past, including his identity, his qualifications and even his place of birth.
The news organization wrote that Apollo, 47, was not born and raised in an Italian village as claimed in a number of places, including his own recipe website, and that his birth name is actually Jean-Claude.
La Presse also refuted several published reports that Apollo trained under renowned chef Paul Bocuse.
Apollo, who is based in Richelieu, Que., published a lengthy affidavit on his restaurant’s website and on his various social media platforms to give an accounting of his life and experience.
He is well-known in Quebec, appearing on TV and radio for more than a decade as well as writing cookbooks and a novel.
“It may be that some parts of my personal life might have been romanticized or that some statements about me could have been nuanced,” Apollo wrote on Facebook.
“But by in no case will I accept we transform into ridicule or lies 34 years of learning, varied experiences and meetings in the kitchen.”
Apollo insists his birth name was Giovanni but that French immigration officials insisted on Jean-Claude, which appears on documents, including his Canadian passport.
He said his parents are of Italian origin and hail from the Amalfi Coast and that he spent time there, but that, according to his family, he was born in Bourg-en-Bresse, France.
Apollo also can’t recall stating he was taught by Bocuse, but said rather he trained under disciples of the French culinary giant.
“In any case, I do not remember having approved any publication that would indicate I was a pupil of Paul Bocuse,” Apollo wrote. “I say I did my apprenticeship as a chef with Paul Bocuse’s pupils and disciples, but not with Mr. Bocuse directly.”
He also addressed the issue of failed restaurant projects that have left investors out in the cold, saying that while they haven’t always been successful, it’s unfair to say he is on bad terms with former business partners.
Apollo said he can’t control everything written about him over the years, including details on a LinkedIn account in his name that he describes as a fake.
“I emphasize that I have not approved or controlled everything that may have been written, published or said about me over the years,” Apollo wrote.
“It is therefore possible that some erroneous or inaccurate information that is open to interpretation has been published about me without my knowledge or without my having had the opportunity to correct or qualify it.”
Apollo was also the subject of sexual harassment and intimidation allegations in a separate Radio-Canada report earlier this month — allegations he denied vehemently in the affidavit.
“With respect to the allegations of psychological harassment and of a sexual nature, I reiterate that I have never committed such acts,” he wrote, adding he is generally well regarded by his staff.
He claims that since Nov. 2, his family has faced hurtful comments and intense media pressure and that he is also concerned about lost business opportunities.