Chef James Martin serves up feast on visit to top kitchen
Despite the rain, TV chef James Martin loves to cook in Northern Ireland, writes Stephanie Bell
More than 200 locals enjoyed a very special dining experience when celebrity cook James Martin made his annual visit to the brilliant Barnaby's Restaurant in Ballyclare.
The top TV chef cooked there for two nights this week and mingled with guests who tucked into a mouth-watering menu of Korean salad with pan-fried fish, slow roasted fillet of beef, warm mushroom risotto, fresh kale and black truffle, followed by a dessert of blackcurrant delice with blackberry sorbet.
Martin, who recently stepped down as host of his popular long-running cookery show Saturday Kitchen, was giving nothing away about his future plans when he spoke exclusively to the Belfast Telegraph.
He did, however, reveal that he was looking forward to returning to these shores later this year, when the Good Food Show will be visiting the Northern Ireland Food Festival for the first time.
All the dishes James cooked at the restaurant over the two days were created using fresh produce provided by leading wholesale supplier Musgrave MarketPlace, whose meat and fresh produce experts assisted in the selection of the ingredients.
Taking a brief break from the kitchen, Martin said: "I love coming to Northern Ireland.
"I have been at Barnaby's every year for the past eight years and I really enjoy it, although it rains a lot here.
"Of course, I am very familiar with Northern Ireland food. I worked with Paul Rankin on Ready Steady Cook 12 years ago and I know the area and the produce. I used to cook your local duck in my restaurant. You have great meat and great vegetables here."
Martin was just 22 when he opened his first restaurant, and since his TV career started 20 years ago he has rarely been off our screens. He is the author of 15 best-selling and award-winning cookbooks, and this year, he embarked on his first ever UK tour, which will see him visit 25 different venues.
He told how after 10 years on Saturday Kitchen, he was ready to try something new.
"I loved every minute of Saturday Kitchen, and 10 years is a long time for a cookery show on TV as they tend to come and go," James explained.
"It was a great opportunity that the BBC gave me, and we did some mega things on it and it was fantastic.
"I decided to pursue other things, and I have had constant phone calls. Even being here and preparing dinner for 200 people in Barnaby's tonight is a part of that. I am just going to take it all as it comes."
While he creates amazing dishes, the chef is also well-known for his simple fare. His favourite food to cook at home remains egg and chips or steak and chips, although it was fine dining James Martin-style that customers at Barnaby's were treated to this week.
Martin said he believed there was more than enough room for the new cooks and chefs coming on to TV, as well as "old timers" like himself.
"New ones are coming along all the time and that's good," he added. "The guys that have been doing it a long time, like myself and people like Jamie, Gordon and Nigella, all offer something very different.
"Food comes and goes and trends come and go, and last year the trend was for healthy food and everyone was eating a lot of lettuce. But now it's changed again. But it keeps us all busy and we all love our food."
The chef revealed that the current trend was for Peruvian food and that the challenge for chefs was not so much sourcing the ingredients but what they created with those ingredients.
"It is all about fusions at the minute and using different ingredients, which are always going to be local and the UK has great produce," he added. "For chefs it is about how they put the ingredients together.
"People here are great and I've had to spend a lot of time in the kitchen over the past two days, but it has been nice to get into the restaurant and meet people.
"We've just been giving our best and people seem to have enjoyed it."