Hot seat: James Martin

Ahead of his appearance at Gourmet Abu Dhabi, the 38-year-old British celebrity chef spills the beans on Michelin stars, knife safety and more

Interview, Hot seat, The Knowledge

Are you excited about taking part in Gourmet Abu Dhabi?
Of course. It’s a two-fold celebration of all the hard work the catering industry puts into restaurant establishments and a celebration of quality food. These events create a buzz about food and make cooking live a real event.

What can people expect from your masterclass and celebrity dinner?
At the dinner there will be some new dishes and some trademarks, with a mix of gorgeous fresh seafood, succulent meats and heavenly desserts. Something to suit all tastes – anything is possible! As for the masterclass, hopefully people will be inspired to cook achievable dishes for every occasion. There’s no point in making food that’s overcomplicated.

Are you hoping for some inspiration and new ideas from Abu Dhabi’s chefs?
Definitely. I never stop being inspired – the calibre of chefs we attract on [BBC TV show] Saturday Kitchen is phenomenal and I love working with different people every week. I’ve taken inspiration from lots of people – my family and from the chefs I worked with in my early years. But the person who most inspired me was my grandmother. She passed away 12 years ago, but if I could cook a home meal for anyone it would be her.

Do you get much time to cook at home these days?
Unfortunately, I rarely get to eat in as I’m always busy, so it’s often a rare treat to be in my own kitchen and cooking the food I really love. The art of cooking is to keep it simple. I’ve learned over the years that as long as you have good ingredients, you can’t go wrong.

Any other advice you can share with our readers?
Be extra careful with knives! Once, I had to have 54 stitches in my hand when I was trying to remove the shoulder bone from a shoulder of lamb – the knife blade was so sharp I didn’t even notice at first. That’s a mistake I definitely won’t make again!

How important do you think Michelin stars are for the restaurant industry?
In short, not very. The Michelin world is so closeted and, while it’s great to win an accolade like that, they shouldn’t rule the industry. Restaurants should be judged on how busy they are.

Finally, what would you choose for your final meal?
I’d have fish and chips from Whitby, a seaside town in northern England.
James Martin’s celebrity dinner is on February 3 at Crowne Plaza Yas Island Abu Dhabi; tickets are Dhs750. His free masterclass is on February 4 at the Armed Forces Officers Club & Hotel. For info, call 02 418 1401. For more on the 16-day Gourmet Abu Dhabi, see www.gourmetabudhabi.ae.

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