Chef of The Week: James Martin – Chef Proprietor of James Martin Manchester

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
The restaurant in Manchester has been open for its 7th year and the restaurant at Chewton Glen end of the 2nd year.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
Passion started from being a farmer’s kid and working on the farm from a young age, it was there I learnt the value of ingredients and food and understood the ethos of hard work.  I learnt my skills early on working in restaurants in and around Yorkshire alongside chefs such as Brian Turner and Keith Floyd and in my teens working at restaurants in France and in a chateau in Bordeaux, working alongside the grand old matriarch of the chateau kitchen.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
The enjoyment I get about being a chef is working with a great team and having access to some amazing ingredients. A lot has changed however with the television side of it which has opened doors and created transatlantic friendships with chefs from around the world to which I am forever grateful.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Butter, salt and cream.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
The piece of equipment I couldn’t live without is my team as without them none of this would happen. I owe the success to them, and oh I’ve got an old wooden spoon I still use – my gran’s!

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
The food trends at the moment are definitely fermenting and ageing, it’s a growing art, however there are still only a few people that have mastered it correctly – Sat Bains, Paul Ainsworth, Gareth Ward to name a few.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Attitude lets so many chefs down.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
The great thing about doing this job is you get to meet suppliers and producers that make, brew and supply great food and drink all year round. There isn’t a season that I look forward to really.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
The dish I am most proud of is a white chocolate and whisky croissant butter pudding with single malt ice cream that I put on the menu at aged 17 in my first job at 190 Queensgate and The Restaurateurs Association restaurant, I remember Roy Ackerman commenting on it even now.

How do you come up with new dishes?
I come up with new dishes from travelling and the vast amount of media work that I end up doing enables me to cook alongside the greatest cooks in the world, to which I have the upmost respect for… all of them… they taught me a lot and continue to do so.

Who was your greatest influence?
My greatest influence at college was my lecturer, Ken Allison, who taught me all about flavour and concentration, and the ability to listen. My greatest influence now are all the chefs that put their reputations on the line, day in, day out, even more so, on my food shows. It leaves them very open and vulnerable which I can only support and thank them for doing all they do.

Tell us three chefs you admire
Pierre Koffmann, Michel Roux Senior and Clare Smyth.

What is your favourite cookbook?
Sat Bains and Daniel Clifford – two brilliant books by two legends of the UK food scene

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
The chefs I think we should be watching are Paul Ainsworth and seeing what he achieves at The Mariners, Tom Kerridge as he seems to be taking over the world (sorry Tom, you know I love you!) and Claude Bosi.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
A Wong – simple tasty and very clever cooking.