TV chef James Martin makes a nostalgic trip through France as he pays homage to his culinary hero Keith Floyd...
James Martin is constantly cooking up mouth-watering TV series and his current one is so totally delicious, we can almost forgive him for leaving Saturday Kitchen!
Airing weekdays at 3pm on ITV, James Martin’s French Adventure sees him hitting the open road on a journey of nostalgia, remembering the memorable TV trip his food hero Keith Floyd once took 30 years ago. To make this even more special, James is behind the wheel of Floyd’s very own Citroen 2CV.
“In 2015 I got the opportunity to buy Keith Floyd's original 2CV,” says James. “Knowing I was a big fan of her dad’s, Keith’s daughter Poppy called to see if I was interested – there was no doubt that I’d want it. That started the ball rolling with the idea of travelling back to the country where I holidayed as a child and used to work – a country which Keith also loved and made his home. Keith Floyd was such an inspiration to me. I think it’s because for anybody who wants to do cooking on television – and even for those who have been doing it for as long as I have – Keith was the master of the craft.”
So what made him such a master? “His shows still stand the test of time,” says James. “He was the first to take the barrier between camera and presenter away, and made food more fun. He presented himself with this very laid-back attitude, he was very honest and didn’t try to pretend he was anything he wasn’t. I’ve been doing TV for 20 years now and there is nobody better – nobody did it better than he did. Every single clip he did was one just take. He never did stuff twice! I loved all that, because if it didn’t work he would just down tools and not do it – he was very free and true. He wasn’t this gastronomic chef, he was a very passionate foodie, very knowledgeable and just a great guy who was really good with people.”
James first met Keith Floyd when he was just 11 years old. “He came up to Yorkshire and did a gourmet dinner,” James recalls. “I remember him getting drunk and falling off his lectern, and I thought, ‘I want to be like that’. He was a huge character. “Too many young chefs nowadays want to be superstars. In that sort of world you’ve got to keep your feet on the ground and I think older chefs such as Mary Berry are very influential around you. That kind of era is unique and you can learn a lot from people like that.” In James Martin’s French Adventure, does James literally follow in Keith’s tyre-prints, so to speak? “No – we deliberately made the show not to be a pilgrimage, as 98 per cent of where we visited were places he didn’t go to on screen,” James (44) replies. “A lot has changed in France over the last 30 years, plus it would have been a bit odd to absolutely follow in his footsteps.”
The trip took six months on and off, and included visits to places that helped to carve James’ own culinary beginnings. “I started life as a professional chef in France when I was very young and part of me wanted to go back to see what’s changed – if anything,” explains James.
Exploring and sampling the very best in French cuisine, James’ journey starts in Provence and continues onto Perigord, Burgundy, Alsace, Pay Basque and Brittany – all the while stopping to produce his own versions of the iconic dishes he finds on location.
James says: “One of my favourite areas was the floating market at L’Isle-sur-La-Sorgue near Avignon in southern France,” he reveals. “It is famous for its floating market which happens just once a year. It was probably one of the nicest places I visited on my trip – as well as the Camargue and Lake Annecy. It was also an honour working with some of the greatest chefs in the world. As for my favourite dish of the trip, it was probably the quail that Michel Roux Senior cooked at his house overlooking St Tropez. Michel is another of my culinary heroes. Others include chefs I have met along the way with work and shows – Georges Blanc and Alain Ducasse to name just two. I’m constantly learning new things when it comes to cooking – the world is a big place and food is a big subject.” We look forward to learning new things, too!