France, food and Floyd - a chef's journey
UK TV chef James Martin has travelled far and wide during his career. He also a regular visitor to Singapore.
For his latest food-laden travelogue, he journeys through France to the locations that inspired his culinary career and paying homage to his food hero Keith Floyd.
Holidaying and studying in France as a teenager, the country was influential in establishing Martin’s love for food. The series follows James as he retraces the memorable TV trip his food hero Keith Floyd once took 30 years ago, while also visiting the places that carved his culinary beginnings.
Exploring and sampling the very best in French cuisine, Martin travels the length and breadth of the country in Floyd’s very own Citroen 2CV.
Here, James Martin talks about the series and his approach to good food...
What can we expect in this series?
It’s visiting all the places I used to work in France when I was a kid, because I ventured into the kitchen when I was 12 years old, in some of the famous kitchens in France.
I travel around in Keith Floyd's old car. (Floyd was a famous UK TV chef, renowned for his on-the-spot cooking segments). So I take that back to France where it belongs, and we travel around tasting and searching for all the great food that we have in each area.
It was an absolutely a fantastic road trip, where we visit everywhere from Paris right down to the South of France.
Why did Keith Floyd has had such an impact on you?
I think he had an impact on a lot of people in my generation.
He was never one of the great chefs. What he was, was a great raconteur and he was brilliant on camera.
He had a great personality because he was passionate about food.
His enthusiasm showed on camera, and that was intoxicating for younger generations like myself, who were foodies - but I never wanted to be on TV.
It was just the fact that it inspired you to watch the programmes, because it was so fascinating.
If you were able to meet Keith Floyd after going on this trip, what would you say to him?
He passed away about 8 years ago now. I’m sure he, like me, has the same ethos in terms of food.
We love food, we love producers of the food, and people. And people are fascinating.
And he, like me, hopefully, tried to do that kind of stuff on camera because so many times food can be very polished.
I like cooking very raw, I like meeting people for the first time on camera, because the first time is when you get the best reaction.
What is it about the French cuisine that attracts you to it?
I always say that the French like their food like the Italians like their clothes.
The French have an obsession with their food. There’s no price they won’t pay for great food.
And it’s not about the cheapest or being the best, it’s about great food, right across the board. From fruit, vegetables, fish, chicken, all manner of different sorts of things.
They hold their traditions very dear in France, in terms of their food. As well as looking for the future and looking at modern techniques, they never forget where they’re from and never forget their past.
Any country that has a museum of chicken is a country that I want to go visit.
Do you have a favourite French dish?
Bresse is an area of France that’s famous for white corn, which they feed to the white chickens.
Of course, the white chicken is also the emblem of France. It’s got blue legs, red comb and white feathers.
I had this dish cooked for me by one of the greatest chefs in the world – Georges Blanc.
I think that was probably the highlight for me. I turned into a bit of a groupie, I had a lot of books and aprons signed.
He is one of the legends of my industry, and to have a dish like that cooked from him using one of my favourite ingredients was very special.
What’s your most memorable moment on the journey through France?
Visiting places that I’ve never been before.
We went to a cheese maturing chateau which was situated in an old military fort.
There was 150 million Euros worth of Comté cheese underneath, maturing.
It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Miles and miles of cheese in these caves downstairs, underneath the chateau, which was just spectacular. Very special.
Will we be able to expect guests on the series?
Yeah, there’s a few guests popping up.
A lot of very famous French chefs said yes to doing the show. It’s been fantastic and very well received in the UK.
No celebrity guests, none of that – you’ve just got members of the public and people who produce and make the food. It’s very good fun.
If you could bring along anyone you wanted on this trip, who would it be?
Anybody who wants to come! Anybody with the same enthusiasm, but if Keith Floyd was still around, I’d love for him to come along and join us on the trip because he would’ve loved it like I did.
Do you have a different perspective on France now, as opposed to before you did the trip?
France has a different perspective on food than it used to be.
When I was a young British chef, 25-30 years ago, the UK had quite a bad reputation for food.
So it’s amazing how that has changed in such a short space of time, and how the French look at British food now is very different to what they used to do.
Will you bring any of your learnings from the trip back to your restaurants in the UK?
I do certain dishes back in the UK which involve a lot of the methods and techniques that I’ve learned [from France]. But there’s areas where I want to go to next – I’m going to America next month to make another series, and then there’s the possibly of Asia, so we’ll see.
Is there somewhere else you'd like to do a similar series?
I’d like to just travel East to West in Asia. I’d love to do that on a motorbike.
I’ve got this idea where we take a motorbike and sidecar, and off I go around Asia with a tent and a camping gas stove.
I’m fascinated by parts of Asia I’ve never been to before. I’ve never been to Japan or Thailand, so I’d love to go see these places. I think seeing it for the first time is always the best.
What was your impression of Singapore - you were here about six months ago?
Singapore’s a crazy place. It’ the city that never sleeps.
I’ve been back and forth to Singapore over 20 years, and what a difference the food has been. It’s very different now to what it was 20 years ago, but still a fascinating place.
It would be definitely on my stop list, yes.
James Martin's French Adventure is available on BBC Player.