James Martin reminds me of someone. And it’s not just that the TV chef’s current road trip around France has more than a touch of Rick Stein’s French Odyssey about it.
Déjà vu it isn’t.
Yet both Martin and Stein are Francophiles and the two series showcased traditional French dishes, often with the chefs’ own twists. For me, Martin’s series has the edge over Stein’s 2005 outing, simply because there’s more cooking.
Yorkshire-born Martin took to French cuisine during family holidays at the age of 17. Then, while his classmates took work experience placements locally, he headed for the kitchen of a Michelin-starred restaurant in Saint-Émilion.
Which explains why the first episode of his new daytime series on ITV1 starts there.
In subsequent episodes, he heads for places such as Carcassonne, Lyon and Lake Annecy. In each, he meets some local characters, before cooking up a dish there and then or back in his home kitchen.
Butter, cream and tarragon are never far from his list of ingredients.
I have never watched James Martin before, but he comes across well. He’s amiable, passionate and, reassuringly, a bit tubby. (I can’t bring myself to trust a thin chef.)
Despite all his training in France, the language seems to have passed him by, however, and we rarely hear him attempt more than “Bienvenue” or “C’est bon”. Without wishing to be unkind, my satnav has a better grasp of the phonetic subtleties of French than James Martin.
“My satnav has a better French grasp of the phonetic subtleties of French than James Martin”
That said, there is no denying his enthusiasm for France and its food. Indeed, his voyage sur la route takes place courtesy of fellow TV chef Keith Floyd’s old 2CV.
Like Floyd, Martin clearly appreciates the wine of France to, and we often see him enjoying a glass as he cooks. Actually, it’s not Stein or Floyd he reminds me of, but myself… Cheers!