james-martin

James Martin reveals his one regret about meeting the Queen - read our exclusive interview

The celebrity chef had a good natter with HELLO!

Sophie Hamilton

We love tuning into James Martin's Saturday Morning on the weekend for a dose of great chat and delicious recipes from the chef's own home.

James is gearing up to host his first-ever virtual live cookery masterclass, Dine In With James Martin, on Saturday 3 October from 6.30 pm – a totally new concept where fans can cookalong with the star as he guides them through creating a three-course meal with a live Q&A session.

On the menu is a starter of halloumi with chilli jam, chicken sauté with vinegar and pilaf rice for main course, followed by a dessert of raspberry tart.

HELLO! chatted to James about the exciting event and all things food – plus his time on Strictly and that day he met the Queen! Read our interview here…

MORE: James Martin: Everything you need to know about the celebrity chef

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WATCH: See how James helped out his village in lockdown!

 

Hi James, tell us about your Dine In With James Martin event…

"It's gone a bit mad! It was Live Nation's idea and they said it might work. Might? It's gone mental. We sold three-quarters of the tickets in 24 hours. I said it would be quite nice to do it on a Friday or Saturday night where you can cook along and feed your family at the end of it.

"It's good to do something like this where people log on and get the list of ingredients and equipment they need straight away, so they have time to prepare for it.

"There's a Q&A with me as well. It's quite relaxed – there are two hours to do a three-course meal. I don't think anyone's ever done it before chef-wise."

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James Martin is hosting his first virtual cookalong

 

How have you found lockdown?

"Everyone's decided they want to be chefs, haven't they? When lockdown first started they were all bakers and they realised that they weren't very good at it and so everyone's decided to be chefs now. It's great.

"It's fantastic that people are now more involved with food than ever before. People appreciate how fragile this industry is, hence the reason why you couldn't get eggs or flour."

 

What changes have you made to your restaurants since the pandemic started?

"Dramatic changes to be honest with you. We're quite fortunate that we're in a hotel, we're not in London."

"Our hotel has never been as full as this. Every room we can service, you've got a separate entrance, you can go outside every room - we're in a 300-acre site. We're not in a city centre where we've got four lifts to service 60 floors. It's very different."

READ: 12 best chocolate hampers for Christmas

james-martin-bike

James has a passion for motorbikes and cars

 

We saw you made pasta for your village in lockdown – that's amazing!

"I had the pasta machine at the restaurant, so when we went into lockdown, I took the machine back home. Then, of course, a week later everyone's moaning they can't get pasta. Luckily I managed to keep the suppliers going.

"I thought I'll give it a go and the response was massive. What was great was you'd make the pasta, put it out in the village and families would come along and take a bag for their kids, then an elderly lady that would come and swap five sticks of rhubarb for a bag of pasta. I'd make something with the rhubarb and stick that out the following day and that would go.

"I used about 10,000 eggs probably, 40 big bags of 25kg bags of flour. I was making 100 kilos every week which is a lot of bloody pasta! I did it right throughout lockdown.

"I remember people were short of eggs so I bought 3000 eggs and stuck them out the front of the gate – they all went. It's nice to do stuff like that."

 

Tell us about the time you met the Queen at Buckingham Palace…

"Apparently once a month they do it. They pick random people, some in the public eye, some not. There was only eight of us for lunch; it was magical.

"I have total respect for the Queen and the royal family. Would you want to do it? No, would you hell. I wouldn't want to do that in a month of Sundays. The only thing I regret is that my grandmother wasn't alive to witness it because she was a huge fan.

"I thought I was going over there for one of those garden parties or 300 people in a room but when I got there the corgis walked in and in came her Majesty, and sat opposite me. It's one of those pinch-yourself moments you'll never forget for the rest of your life.

"We chatted about dogs, about life. She's very polite, it was great. You don't remember what you said because you were so nervous – you can't believe you're having a one on one conversation with the Queen for 45 minutes."

MORE: 20 surprising facts about the Queen's royal banquets

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James also met the Queen in 2015 onboard the P&O Britannia cruise liner 

 

Do you get recognised a lot?

"Well, I've been doing this a long time, 28 years on TV. "You don't look as fat as you do on TV" is the usual one [comment]. "We miss you from a Saturday morning", that's another one.

"They've always been very loyal to me. I don't see it as a fan base, I don't see myself as famous at all. I just cook what I like to cook and am just privileged to be doing this for a living. As other people try and find fame, I kind of can't be bothered. The problem with that is the more it gets."

 

Do you read the comments on your social media?

"No! It comes down to the fact I can't be ar***. If people don't like you, they've already made an assumption whether they don't like you. No comment from me is ever going to do that. That's why I have a lady called Cara who looks after my social media now.

"Last time I had too many gin and tonics and said about Fireman Sam, next minute I was the front page of the newspaper and trending on social media. When I woke up in the morning they went, 'My God, what have you done?' I went 'I don't know, I posted it about 11 o'clock pi**** in a bar'."

(The Fireman Sam incident involved James taking to Twitter to express his outrage at the character being dropped as the mascot for the Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service, due it to being deemed 'outdated')

"It's a powerful tool. You've got to learn how to respect it. The main thing is my family – I speak to my mum every single day. They're the important things in your life, not what people think."

MORE: Back to work: 10 essential items you need to cope with the new no-kitchen rules

 

We loved watching you on Ready, Steady, Cook years ago – where's the famous bandana now?!

"Funnily enough I just found one yesterday. They were never bandanas – they were a piece of tea towel we had at the restaurant. Because I had long hair and I didn't have time to get my hair cut, I used to tie it back and that's how the bandana came [about]. It wasn't a gimmick.

"The weird thing is, the jacket still fits me from 26 years ago, so I'm going in the right way. The bandana I look a bit of a plonker in. Back then I probably looked alright."

james-martin-charles

James meets Prince Charles in 1999 wearing one of his famous bandanas

 

Maybe it's time to resurrect the bandana on Saturday Morning?

"You think so? Maybe not (laughs)."

 

What's your funniest memory from your Ready, Steady, Cook days?

"When we did the Full Monty I think, for Children in Need. We raised about 8.5 million quid in about an hour and a half. Ainsley Harriott, myself, Anthony Worrell Tomson, Brian Turner and Tony Tobin – the days of Spice Girls. I remember Mel B asked me where the toilet was. She thought I was a security guard at the BBC! The fact that I had Velcro pants on…. It was very funny."

 

What's your guilty food pleasure?

"I have a Wispa Gold - and they've just decided to do a king-size one which might make my weight loss disappear.

"I haven't done any exercise – it's called reopening a restaurant. It's stressful! I do a lot of manual labour in the garden. Reopening a restaurant… I lost two and a half stone doing it. It's nothing to do with the gym."

 

What do you cook for a romantic meal at home?

"I haven't got time for that, too busy!"

 

Maybe you'll be asked back…

"I don't know about that. All the other chefs get an OBE and MBE, I'm just plodding on."

 

You did Strictly in 2005 – are you still in touch with your dance partner Camilla Dallerup?

"Yeah. I think she's in LA. She's into healing and reiki now. I'm still in contact with her, all the people who did it when I did. Zoe Ball was the same year as me, Darren Gough. That was magical but it was before Blackpool Tower. It was the first year of the Wembley tour."

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James with former Strictly dance partner Camilla

 

Can you remember any of the dances?

"Oh god yeah, not that I can do it. That show I credit to doing Saturday mornings. I didn't want to do it (Strictly), not at all. But it's one of those chef things – if you want to do something and do it well, you've got to throw yourself at it."

 

And this season there's no audience on Strictly

"Yeah to be honest with you, the audience frightened me anyway. It's probably easier without the audience. I remember standing at the top of the staircase, Bruce would go down. You'd be stood there in a line going oh my god, have you heard everybody? The music frightens you anyway. The audience lifts you for sure but it gave me nerves."

 

You have your own band! Tell us about it…

"We're called the James Martin Band. We thought long and hard about it and we called it that!

"Our first gig was at CarFest in front of 30,000 people on Saturday night in between Jools Holland on one stage and Kaiser Chiefs on the other stage. We were the act in-between the two. An experience I'll never forget.

"I remember my mate turned round to me and said 'Why the hell are you nervous? You appear in front of millions of people every week and you don't get nervous.' I said "Yeah, but I can't see them. All I see is 4 cameramen, that's it'. It's not the same.

"The buzz was mega. We practice in the local village hall and my lounge. It's good fun. I don't know whether there are any albums coming out shortly, so you're alright, and I don't sing. I play guitar."

 

Tickets for Dine In with James Martin are on sale at ticketmaster.co.uk

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