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Chef Giovanni Apollo Accused of Fabricating an 'Italian Identity'

His real name is Jean-Claude Apollo, and that’s just the beginning

Jean-Claude (“Giovanni”) Apollo
Apollo Globe

A major exposé on prominent Quebec chef Giovanni Apollo dropped this morning from La Presse journalist Isabelle Hachey. In the piece, Hachey alleges that the owner of former Montreal restaurants Les Éclusiers par Apollo, La Buvette par Apollo, and Le Bistro par Apollo more or less fabricated his past.

It’s a fairly long and detailed piece, with Apollo allegedly engaging in some fairly long-running and complex deception. Hachey starts out by focusing on photos that were displayed in Apollo’s former Quebec City restaurant, Pastapollo, that purported to show Apollo during his childhood on Italy’s Amalfi coast.

But the photos aren’t of Apollo, Hachey writes — they were taken in the early ‘50s (Apollo was born in 1970), by Italian photographer Mario Cattaneo, in Naples — where Apollo has never lived (he has also reportedly never lived in Italy).v

The big issue here is that Apollo has built much of his career on this Italian identity — and while he is of Italian descent, it seems that the chef’s life has been substantially removed from Italy and its cuisine. Apollo confirmed these details of his childhood to La Presse, and said the photos in Pastapollo were simply a joke. On top of that, his name isn’t Giovanni — it’s Jean-Claude, and he was raised near Lyon, France.

Hachey goes much deeper than this, and it’s worth reading her French-language investigation in full, but here are the key points:

  • Against Apollo’s claims, the article claims that he was never a student of famed Michelin-star earning French chef Paul Bocuse as was claimed in his 2007 cookbook Apollo (and elsewhere) — Apollo responded to La Presse saying that he was a student of Bocuse’s students or “disciples”, not Bocuse himself
  • Apollo loaned money from people for his numerous Montreal restaurants (sold in 2015) without repaying them, including two million dollars from construction magnate Tony Accurso
  • Similarly, Apollo opened Montreal restaurant Tentations with restaurateur Maurice Angers. Hachey calls Angers “no more than an ATM for Mr. Apollo” — Angers says he lost $150,000 on the restaurant. His brother Stephen also claims to have been threatened by Apollo when he argued against an investment in Tentations.
  • In 2014, Apollo told magazine Échos Vedettes that his family still lived in Italy and that they were proud of his work in Quebec — the family moved to France in the ‘60s. Furthermore, Hachey reached Apollo’s brother Jo, who said he hasn’t talked to Apollo in 15 years and that “in my family, nobody talks to him”. Jo said he had advised his brother to stop acting like this, but that he never stopped.
  • At a 2006 charity dinner in Montreal, Apollo claimed to have served gnu meat (an African wildebeest) — one supplier denied ever having imported gnu meat, while another one claimed to have supplied it to Apollo. In any case, the importation of that meat is forbidden by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
  • On talk show Tout le Monde en Parle, Apollo said what led him to settle in Quebec was a chance encounter with the owner of Quebec City restaurant Le Capitole, Jean Pilote. Pilote told La Presse he has never met Apollo.
  • Hachey suggests Apollo has faked his age: he claims to have cooked for famed French singer Jacques Brel — yet Brel died when Apollo was just eight years old.
  • One former associate of Apollo calls him “Voldemort”, after the evil entity from the Harry Potter series
  • La Presse obtained a recording of Apollo threatening an employee at one of his Montreal restaurants — this led to criminal charges, but no conviction after Apollo promised to keep the peace. But in 2010, Apollo was convicted for assault against his ex-wife’s spouse, which was upheld on appeal — he denies this.

It has not been a great month for Apollo: a Radio-Canada investigation unveiled several complaints of sexual harassment against Apollo just two weeks ago.

Apollo published a statement to Facebook this morning admitting that “some parts of my personal life could have been romanticized, and some statements about me should have been more nuanced, but it does not mean my 34 years of learning and culinary experiences are lies.”

Chers ami(e)s; Suite à l’article de La Presse à mon sujet paru ce matin, je tiens à rétablir les faits et à partager...

Posted by Giovanni Apollo on Thursday, November 16, 2017

On the website for his restaurant La Grange d’Apollo, a page for Apollo’s biography has been added, giving biographical details in line with what La Presse reported, as well as featuring a notarized statement to clarify aspects of his past.

After the story was published on Thursday morning, Apollo’s name was trending on Twitter, with many readers praising Hachey’s thorough research.

Apollo

1333 University, Montreal, QC H3A 2A4 (514) 274-0153 Visit Website

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