5minutes with JAMES MARTIN
TELL US ABOUT THE MAKE IT WITH MINCE CHALLENGE... The parameters of the competition haven’t changed over eight years. It’s open to entrants between the ages of 11 and 16, they’ve got to create a recipe using beef or lamb mince within the hour, with a budget of £10 for two people, and what they decide to do with that is entirely up to them. It could be as simple as spaghetti bolognese, or meatballs, or whatever they want - Indian, Thai or anything. We try to have the prizes slightly different every year. Each one of the regional competitors, of which there are about 60, get a signed chef’s jacket, books and certificate. There are vouchers and prizes for their schools etc, and then we pick an overall winner. WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT TO YOU TO GET CHILDREN INVOLVED WITH COOKING FROM A YOUNG AGE? I think if you’re going to inspire anybody, if you get them when they’re young, it plants a seed. It’s not necessarily that we’re looking for the chefs of the future; what we’re after is just getting people inspired in the kitchen. These children are going to be the parents later on in life so it’s important that we give them the opportunity to create something. YOUR PARENTS WERE FARMERS; YOU MUST HAVE YOU HAD AN INTEREST IN COOKING FROM BEING YOUNG? I knew I was going to be a chef from eight or nine years old. I got the opportunity to create and managed to cater for functions and parties and I just had an enjoyment with it. I enjoyed the love of food and that has led my career to go all over the place but fundamentally it’s always been about the food - British food, I suppose, because I never really got the opportunity to travel.
YOU’VE BEEN DOING SATURDAY KITCHEN FOR SEVEN YEARS NOW; WHAT’S KEPT YOU THERE FOR SO LONG?
CLEARLY COOKING IS YOUR FIRST PRIORITY, SO HOW DID YOUR INVOLVEMENT WITH TV COME ABOUT? I think a lot of chefs look at it now, particularly the younger generation, and say, That’s what I want to do’, but honestly there’s no route into it - it finds you, you don’t find it - and that’s what happened with me. I was working as head chef in this restaurant and we were mega busy, weekends were booked six months in advance, and we used to get a lot of people come down from London, critics and TV. Word got around and that’s how it was really. It was as simple as that. YOU’VE SHARED YOUR KITCHEN WITH MANY OF OUR GREATEST CHEFS, IS THERE ANYONE IN PARTICULAR YOU ADMIRE AND WHY? I admire anyone that comes on Saturday Kitchen because they’re cooking live - it’s not the easiest job to do that. Michel Roux Snr and Pierre Koffmann and the likes of those are people who changed the perception of British food around the world and so we’ve got to thank them for it. And they’re still working in restaurants now so I would have said those two really inspire me more than anyone.
I think the key to that show is that you never take it for granted. We put in the same amount of effort now as we did seven years ago. I think the advantage is you get different chefs on every week, but also for a live show like that, running for seven years and not having to repeat a guest, is testament to a great team around you as well. YOU SEEM SO BUSY WITH WORK, WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME? Sleep mainly. I enjoy my home and just chilling out and try out recipes. At the moment we’re testing recipes for the Good Food Show. It happens in November every year, and you pinch yourself because you sell out four shows a day, there’s 5,000 people per show. To do that we spend time in the kitchen creating recipes and creating a dish that not only looks visual but that you can do seamlessly from one dish to the next in half an hour. You never stop. SO CAN YOU FIT ANYTHING ELSE IN THIS YEAR?! I think possibly another restaurant later on this year. We’re looking for a new site for one, and I’m in my restaurant for the rest of the time as well. Saturday Kitchen is continuing, and there are a couple of ideas that we may be looking at - doing another hospital stint, and helping them out with their food and that’ll be another year gone. James Martin is head judge for the Red Tractor beef and lamb Make It With Mince Challenge 2013, a cooking competition for 11 to 16-yearolds. Visit www.simplybeefandlamb. co.uk/mincechallenge LIVING ALONG THE THAMES
Published on Jun 6, 2013
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