The London-bound travellers on the Friday morning train must have wondered what on earth was going on.
There in their midst was a well-known chef, with an overnight backpack – and a large bunch of rhubarb. But this was no sinister attempt to introduce Southern softies to the joys of great Yorkshire rhubarb – it was James en route to the Saturday Kitchen studio. The rhubarb was a surprise gift for the show’s regular host, fellow tyke James Martin, a reminder of his roots. Aired at the end of January, the show’s other guest chef was pal Stephen Terry, from The Hardwick in Abergavenny. He and James worked together last year when they were part of a team of top-name chefs, including Tom Kerridge, Chris Mackey, Josh Eggleston, Dom Chapman and Ben Tish, who cooked a fundraising dinner at The Hardwick during the Abergavenny Food Festival.An old hand at Saturday Kitchen, Stephen had plenty of welcome advice for first-timer James – although his plan to go out and have a few drinks the previous evening was a bit less welcome, specially as the day starts at 6am with a full run-through of the show before live broadcast at 10am.The celebrity guest was the youthful Kris Marshall, best known as Nick in My Family, Adam in the long-running series of BT ads, and, more recently, as DI Humphrey Goodman in Death in Paradise.
James cooked a favourite of his, salt beef with a fried egg, gooseberry ketchup and pickled onion rings (“I could eat that all day,” said Kris); proffered advice to callers; and took part in the regular three-egg omelette challenge (“I wouldn’t send it out at the Pipe and Glass,” said James of the finished product, which he whipped up in just 31 seconds, putting him right up there alongside seafood virtuoso Rick Stein).And James (Mackenzie) has nothing but admiration for James (Martin).“I doubt there’s another chef in this country, possibly even in the world, that could do what he does on Saturday Kitchen,” he says. “Fronting a live 90-minute show, week after week, keeping it to time, chatting to guests, keeping everyone happy, everything running smoothly, is really tough. And he’s so unflappable and professional – the producer suggested that I spring the rhubarb on him, so we hid it under the counter and thrust it under his nose unexpectedly. But it didn’t throw him at all.“The phone’s been ringing off the hook since my appearance,” he continues. “With bookings, of course – but also with, it seems, everyone I know wanting to know all the details!”