When James Martin arrives at our photo shoot, he’s been up working since 3am. Armed with a can of energy drink (‘That’s all I need, I’m low maintenance…’) and the easy, relaxed manner that earned him a legion of fans during his decade presenting Saturday Kitchen, he’s quick to put everyone at ease and shows no sign of flagging. After 20 years on our TV screens, James, 43, decided it was time to shake things up – and his new role as the face of Asda comes from his desire to help everyone enjoy delicious food. Good Living meets the main man...
I always believed great food shouldn't be expensive
Welcome James!We’re excited to have you on board…
Me too – I can’t wait to get stuck in!
What has being the face of Asda involved so far?
I’ve walked around lots of stores doing research – with a hat on so nobody clocks me! There are things we can change, things we can adapt. But Asda already has amazing, quality produce. In fact, they use the same Wagyu beef supplier as I do for my restaurant [James Martin Manchester].
How much say will you have at Asda?
I want to get really involved. Asda’s CEO, Andy Clarke, and I are both farmers’ kids, so we understand the value of food and, most importantly, how hard it is to produce.
What other values do you think you share with Asda?
I’ve always believed great food shouldn’t be expensive – it needs to be accessible to everyone. I’m from Yorkshire and Mum gave me this advice when I was on TV: ‘If you can’t buy the ingredients north of Watford, then don’t cook it.’ She taught me to keep things simple in the kitchen – that’s probably the reason I’ve kept this job for 20 years.
Was she your early cooking inspiration?
Yes. You can’t beat Mum’s roast beef, with legendary potatoes, proper gravy and Yorkshire puddings. As farmers, a Sunday roast was a fundamental part of life. I was brought up on dishes like cottage pie with peas then Arctic roll.
Do you cook for your mum now?
If I’m at home, she does all the cooking as I create too much mess. She won’t let me near her kitchen; she’s got a new cooker and thinks I’ll wreck the stovetop as I shake the pans so much!
What do you love to cook at home?
Steak and chips. You can do triplecooked chips in restaurants but really good steak, cooked properly, with frozen chips is magical.
You left Saturday Kitchen in March…
I was at an awards ceremony in Dubai last year when a bloke on stage dropped dead, 8ft away from me. He was the same age as me and had a similar job. At that moment, I decided my career had to change. I’d had just two days off last year and it was getting tough.
We bet you had a hectic schedule…
The alarm went off at 3am on Saturday so I had to be in bed by 8pm. For me to give up my Friday nights and Saturdays away from the restaurant for 10 years was a big order.
What have you been up to since?
I went to see a few chefs in Florida on a working holiday. I loved it. I’ve never really travelled and I think to get inspiration for food it’s really important to go abroad.
Are pals intimidated cooking for you?
I don’t get invited to people’s houses – I’ve only had one invite in 14 years!
Oh no!What do you cook for friends?
Anyone who comes around asks, ‘Can you do that crab risotto?’ And they always want the white chocolate bread and butter pudding that hasn’t been off my restaurant menu in 22 years.
Any other plans for the future?
Every year I get asked to do a reality show. I did Strictly 11 years ago, which got me the Saturday Kitchen gig. Before then, I was just the Ready, Steady, Cook guy with the bandana!
Another reality show?
No! But I would like to have a day off. This year has been a bit crazy...
Check out James's new advert for Asda below!