A chat with James Martin


TV chef James Martin will teach guests how to cook at Britannia's Cookery Club. Jessica Hopkins goes to meet him

 James Martin

You’d expect an impressive kitchen in a chef’s home, but the huge island workstation in James Martin’s converted barn is something else. Fresh ingredients spill out across it and shiny pans are stacked on the edge.


Behind the stove is where he’s happiest: ‘It’s all about the food for me,’ he says. Despite his obvious passion, I inadvertently raise an eyebrow when he mentions that he spent the previous two evenings in the kitchens of his two restaurants. ‘A lot of people are surprised when they hear I still put the real graft in!’ he laughs. ‘But why wouldn’t I? We had a full house two nights ago in Yorkshire, [at The Talbot Hotel in Malton] and then I drove across the Pennines and we were packed out last night, too [at James Martin Manchester].’


It’s a good job he likes to keep busy, because somewhere in between travelling from his Hampshire home to his northern restaurants, via a weekly visit to London for TV commitments, James is finding time to bring his love of cooking onboard Britannia. He’ll be giving discerning would-be chefs the opportunity to attend ‘a cookery school like no other’.


Joining Britannia’s maiden voyage, James will be introducing The Cookery Club, which is a very exciting venture, he says. Britannia will be fitted with 12 bespoke kitchen stations, where up to 24 budding chefs can learn from and cook with James and some of his celebrity chef friends. According to James, the dishes made at The Cookery Club are very well thought out: ‘I don’t want people to cook something that they’ve got no intention of cooking when they get home,’ he explains. ‘I want people to create fantastic food that they can return to, again and again.’


Born and bred in North Yorkshire, James’s family were pig farmers – an upbringing that fostered his love of food. Childhood holidays, however, would alternate between Morecambe and Blackpool, neither of which generated much foodie inspiration. Now he’s a chef, James recognises the importance of experiencing other cultures: ‘Learning about what’s happening with food in other countries is really important,’ he insists.


Keen to make use of local produce, James wants the port locations to dictate what people will be learning to cook each day. ‘In Barcelona, you’ve got one of the greatest food markets in the world,’ he enthuses. ‘Spain has incredible pork, oils and spices, so we’ll be taking a group of people off the ship to select spectacular produce that we can then cook later that afternoon.’


‘As a chef, you never stop learning, so I’m excited to find out what The Cookery Club participants have in store for me!’ The feeling is mutual, James, we can’t wait either.


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