James Martin interview

Celebrity chef James Martin talks Michelin stars and kitchen injuries

Interview

We hope you’re good and hungry, because British chef James Martin is on his way to the capital to headline this year’s Gourmet Abu Dhabi. Martin is one of the most recognisable faces on British TV, having hosted the popular BBC cookery show Saturday Kitchen and competed in hit primetime ballroom dance-off Strictly Come Dancing. He’s renowned for his innovative use of traditional ingredients and cooking techniques, and will be demonstrating these in a celebrity dinner and gourmet master class as part of the 16-day culinary festival, which kicks off this week. We caught up with him for a quick chat

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

What can people expect from your master class and celebrity dinner?
At the dinner there will be some new dishes and some trademark dishes, with a mix of fresh seafood, succulent meats and heavenly desserts. Something to suit all tastes – anything is possible! As for the master class, hopefully people will be inspired to cook delicious and achievable dishes for every occasion. When it comes to master classes, there’s no point in making food that’s overcomplicated. I like my food to be of the best quality and accessible to everyone.

Sounds like a busy schedule. Will you get any time off to explore Abu Dhabi?
Yeah, I’ll definitely do some exploring of the city. I’d love to see the new racing circuit, and that Ferrari museum is a must.

Are you hoping for some inspiration from the city’s chefs?
Definitely. I never stop being inspired – the calibre of chef we attract on Saturday Kitchen is phenomenal, and I love working with different people every week. I’ve taken inspiration from lots of people – from my family and from the chefs I worked with in my early years. But the person who most inspired me most 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 so busy, so it’s often a rare treat to be in my own kitchen and to be 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 quality ingredients, you can’t go wrong.

Any other sage 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 won’t make again!

How important do you think awards such as Michelin stars are for the restaurant industry?
Not very, in short. The Michelin world is so closeted. While it’s great to win an accolade like that, they shouldn’t overrule it. Restaurants should be judged on how busy they are and how much people are enjoying themselves.

Finally, what would you choose for your final meal?
Fish and chips from Whitby [a seaside town in England]. Without a doubt!
James Martin’s Celebrity Dinner, Dhs750, February 3, 7pm-11pm, Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi Yas Island. James Martin Culinary Master Class, free, February 4, 9.30am-11am, Armed Forces Officers Club & Hotel. For bookings, call (02 4181 401) For more on Gourmet Abu Dhabi

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