Chef James Martin on his love of France and French food
PUBLISHED: 11:13 01 March 2017 | UPDATED: 11:12 08 March 2017
British chef James Martin reveals his favourite French recipes and how he ended up driving round France in a 2CV for his latest TV show
How did the idea of James Martin’s French Adventure come about?
Poppy, Keith Floyd’s daughter, called me up one day back in 2015 and asked if I wanted to buy the 2CV. Being the Floyd fan that I am, I said yes straight away and less than 48 hours later the car was sitting in my garage. I was finishing up work on Saturday Kitchen at the same time and discussions began with ITV. And before I knew it we were filming in France!
How has France and its world-renowned cuisine inspired your own culinary career?
My father was a wine importer in Saint-Émilion and when I was a kid I would go there with him. From the age of 12 (or maybe a little before) I knew I wanted to work in a kitchen and what better cuisine than that of France to be inspired by?
What is your favourite French dish to cook and why?
I have so many favourites, but if I were to name an all-time favourite it would have to be a classic tarte tatin. If it’s done properly, it’s absolutely delicious.
What was your favourite dish from your latest culinary adventure and why?
I loved the blanquette chicken dish. Only in France would you find a museum dedicated to chicken! This is what inspired us to make this dish, which can be tricky as you have to get the egg yolks just right.
I imagine it must have been wonderful to get to work with different French chefs along the way. Do you have any memorable moments?
Yes, I got to work alongside Georges Blanc, Pierre Gagnaire and Michel Roux. One highlight was cooking alongside Michel in his St-Tropez home. That’s an experience I don’t expect to relive.
Where was your favourite French place on your culinary trip and why?
I have two favourite places form my most recent trip: Lake Annecy and Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. The scenery around Lake Annecy is so beautiful while Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is home to some wonderful floating markets.
Do you think British and French attitudes differ when it comes to food?
Definitely. France always has and always will have this love affair with food and drink – both aspects are so ingrained in the French psyche that it will be impossible to completely change that. We don’t have that to the same extent in the UK, but when you ask the great French chefs where the best food is they always say London. The tables are turning in that being a British chef in France now is met with great encouragement while in the late 80s or early 90s, the time when I was starting up, being a British chef would have been less than ideal.
If you were to relocate to France, where would you like to live and why?
I developed a real love for Lake Annecy and could definitely see myself buying a property there.
Where is your favourite part of France?
I really like the south east of France – not St Tropez but the towns and villages up in the hills and mountains.
Do you have any plans to return to France for work or for pleasure in the near future?
I love Lake Annecy so much that I’m off there next week for four days to chill out. And then who knows! Both the TV series and book have done so, so well – the book is no. 2 in the book chart at the moment and the show has been sold to other networks around the world including BBC France. I’d love to do another French-themed culinary trip but I have to speak to ITV first to see what they want.