James was born in 1972 in Malton, Yorkshire. He was brought up on the Castle Howard estate where his father worked as a catering manager. At 16 he began his formal training at Scarborough Technical College, where he was Student of the Year for three years running.
After catering college James went to work for Antony Worrall Thompson in the kitchens of One Ninety Queen’s Gate in London. James went on to work for many leading chefs in London including Marco Pierre White. He then toured France, working in chateaux kitchens and gaining experience in Michelin star establishments. When he moved back to England, he took up a position as junior pastry chef at the acclaimed Chewton Glen.
In 1994, just a few weeks short of his 22nd birthday, James opened the Hotel and Bistro du Vin in Winchester as head chef, where he became famous for changing the menu every day. It was a spring-board to the hotel opening up nine more hotels over the next 10 years.
James’s television career began in 1996 with The Big Breakfast and Ready, Steady, Cook. Over the next ten years he went on to film shows including:
- Kids Eat the Funniest Things
- Fifty Ways to Feed Your Lover
- For Better for Worse
- Simply Fish
- Scouting About
- Entertaining With James
- Use Your Loaf with Paul Hollywood
- Master and Servant with Antony Worrall Thompson
- Why Weight
- Kitchen Invaders
- Good Food Live
- James Martin Sweet
- Yorkshire’s Finest
- Out of the Frying Pan
- Too Many Cooks
- Castle in the Country
- Digs Deep
In 2006 James became the presenter of popular BBC One show Saturday Kitchen. The show is a Saturday morning staple, regularly attracting viewers in excess of 3.5 million.
In 2007 James appeared as co-host of The Great British Village Show on BBC1. He finished off the year with a series on UKTV Food called James Martin’s Christmas Feasts. The following year the 30 part series, Eating with the Enemy, was broadcast.
In September 2011 James was tasked with revamping the menu and catering facilities at Scarborough General Hospital for the BBC’s Operation Hospital Food. The show was recommissioned for a second and third series in 2013 and 2014. Hospital food remains one of James’s great passions.
In 2012 James interviewed Sir Jackie Stewart for Racing Legends on BBC2 about his life and career. The pair drove through the Alps in a Pantera supercar and James also drove Sir Stewart’s Tyrell Formula One car around the Monza race circuit. James described it as “a dream come true”!
In 2013 James presented United Cakes of America on the Good Food Channel. Throughout the 15 episode series he travelled 634 miles along America’s East Coast, sampling 234 cakes and five bags of pretzels with the production crew along the way!
He also joined The Roux Scholarship judging panel along with celebrity chefs including Rick Stein, Raymond Blanc and Angela Hartnett. He remains part of the judging panel, searching for a Roux Scholar from a selection of bright young UK-based chefs.
James also appeared alongside Angela Hartnett and Richard Corrigan on BBC1 in The Great British Budget Menu. The show shone a spotlight on food poverty and involved the chefs cooking nutritious meals on a budget.
In late 2013 James joined Mary Berry as co-judge on the Junior Bake Off on CBBC. Screened over two weeks, viewers saw forty bakers compete to be Junior Bake Off Champion by completing Technical Bakes and Showstopper Challenges. The show went on to win a BAFTA for Children’s Entertainment.
In 2014 James hosted the highly successful Home Comforts for the BBC. Throughout the series James shared his recipes and secrets for home cooking from his own kitchen. The show returned in 2015 for a second series with an accompanying book of the same name and secured high viewing figures for the BBC.
James has also appeared as a guest on programmes including The One Show, Loose Women, The Chris Evans Breakfast Show, Junior Master Chef and BBC Breakfast.
Columns, cookbooks and events
James has written recipe columns for GoodFood and Ideal Home and has contributed to Fresh, Delicious and Garden Life. He also wrote a motoring column for the Mail on Sunday.
James has also published numerous cook books and an autobiography, titles include:
- Eating In With James Martin (1998)
- Delicious! The Deli Cookbook (2000)
- Great British Dinners (2003)
- Easy British Food (2005)
- James Martin’s Great British Winter Cookbook (2006)
- James Martin Desserts (2007)
- The Collection (2008)
- The Great British Village Show Cookbook (2008)
- James Every Day: The Essential Collection (2009)
- Driven (2010)
- My Kitchen (2011)
- Masterclass : Make Your Home Cooking Easier (2011)
- James Martin Easy Everyday: The Essential Collection (2012)
- Slow Cooking: Mouthwatering Recipes with Minimum Effort (2012)
- Fast Cooking: Really Exciting Recipes in 20 Minutes (2013)
- Home Comforts (2014)
All James’s books are available in the shop.
James delivers cooking demonstrations regularly and has appeared at events including the BBC Good Food Show, The Bolton Food & Drink Festival and The Good Food & Wine Show in South Africa as well as many others.
James endorses a range of kitchen electrical appliances with Wahl, saucepans and chefs knives with Stellar, and has large collection of cookware with Denby Pottery. James also consults for Thomas Cook airlines, developing and testing their menus and the 3m in-flight meals they serve each year.
James is also involved with Picnic2u which delivers freshly made picnics and hampers within the London area.
Restaurants and The Cookery Club
In 2011 James opened his first restaurant, Leeds Kitchen, in Clarence Dock, Leeds. It went on to win an Oliver Award for ‘Best Service’ and was the first UK casino restaurant to be placed in the Michelin Guide. The casino, and restaurant along with it, closed in 2013.
In 2012 James opened his second restaurant inside The Talbot, Malton, North Yorkshire. The restaurant was placed in the Michelin Guide at the end of 2012. In June 2013 it was reviewed by Jay Rayner for the Observer who described his meal there as “the single best plate of food I have been served this year” and “three beautifully poised, close to faultless dishes”. James left The Talbot in February 2015.
In September 2013 James opened James Martin Manchester at the Manchester235 casino inside the Great Northern Warehouse.
In 2014 James announced he would be working with P&O Cruises as one of their ‘Food Heroes’ to set up Britain’s first cookery school at sea on board the new ship Britannia. The Cookery Club allows passengers to learn through a series of fully interactive classes inspired by James’s favourite dishes and the destinations Britannia visits.
In 2015 James Martin Kitchen opened at Stansted Airport with the aim of providing proper British food for travellers.
In 2010 James was awarded the title of Honorary Professor by the University of West London, London School of Hospitality and Tourism along with Michel Roux OBE, Raymond Blanc and Anton Mosimann OBE.
In 2013 James was honoured with The Craft Guild of Chefs Special Award. The Special Award is presented to someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the industry, and James was praised for his commitment. Taken by completely surprise, as he thought he was there to present an award, James said “This award is the biggest and only award I’ve ever won, it means a great deal to me as it is judged and awarded by my peers”.
James was named TV Personality of the Year at the Fortnum and Mason Food & Drink Awards 2015. The award is voted for by the public and over 40,000 votes were cast to crown James the winner.
James and the Saturday Kitchen team were also ecstatic when Saturday Kitchen was named Best Food Show at the TV Choice Awards 2015.
Outside of the world of food James is has a real passion for cars, bikes and planes. On the rare days he has off he can be found at the race track or flying through the air!