NO one can deny James Martin likes a challenge.
From Strictly Come Dancing to driving a vintage Maserati in the Mille Miglia 1,000- mile Italian road race, James’s career has been anything but uneventful.
And now the celebrity chef has taken on one of his biggest personal challenges to date — running a restaurant in his home town.
James is working on the kitchens at the Talbot Hotel, in Malton, currently undergoing a multi-million pound refurbishment, and returns to the town 20 years since he launched his varied career.
He was spotted by chef Antony Worrall Thompson who took him to London to work in the kitchens of 190 Queensgate.
Following a period in France, James opened the Hotel du Vin, in Winchester, as head chef at the age of 21.
His television career began in 1996 with appearances on Ready Steady Cook and he now presents the popular Saturday Kitchen on BBC 1.
James’s move back north started last year with the opening of a restaurant in Leeds and rumours have circulated for a number of months over his interest in other establishments in Yorkshire.
“It was quite amusing as my family were phoning me saying we’ve heard you are taking over a certain place when actually I’d been in talks with the team here at the Talbot for a number of months,”
James said. “After opening The Leeds Kitchen, I was looking for a second place in the area when I got a phone call asking if I was interested in coming back to Malton.”
James said that as a boy he had passed the Talbot every day and was aware of its decline over recent years.
“I wanted to come back home and I’ve bought a house locally so this is the perfect opportunity for me,” he said.
“I’m putting my heart and soul into this project and over the past few days I’ve been visiting local suppliers and small artisan producers, even people who make jams and chutneys in their garden shed, to find produce I can use in the restaurant.”
James said he hoped to find local people who could help him and vice versa.
“I need produce to use in the hotel, which will help me out and in turn I can help these people and perhaps even encourage some young entrepreneurs,” he said.
The Talbot is being run again by the Fitzwilliam family, who own the building, and is due to reopen in April following months of extensive renovation.
“I like the fact that a family is running what is going to be a family hotel,”
James said. “They also place a lot of importance on food and want to promote Malton as a destination for good food as seen in the food festival.”
James said the aim for the restaurant was relaxed serving ‘good local British food’.
“I am not looking at Michelin stars here — the food menu will be within everyone’s price range, which they can enjoy in a really good atmosphere,” he said. “My preferences are old-style good honest dishes, simply cooked.”
James said that despite his television career his main love would always be cooking.
“I’m a chef and I will never lose that — it is so important to me to cook and I am looking to be hands-on here,” he said.
“I’ve been involved in hotels since I was 21 and they are very different to restaurants as they are much bigger organisations having to deal with everything from breakfast through to lunch, afternoon tea and dinner.”