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Celebrity chef judges school cooking challenge

NAKP 1211121AM1 James Martin with King James students Mollie Bowlas(13), Penny Salter(13) and Sophie Baxter(13). Picture : Adrian Murray. 1211121AM1

NAKP 1211121AM1 James Martin with King James students Mollie Bowlas(13), Penny Salter(13) and Sophie Baxter(13). Picture : Adrian Murray. 1211121AM1

A corner of Harrogate College was transformed into a tense culinary battlefield as secondary school students did battle this week.

As with any good cooking competition there was a famous chef on hand to judge the efforts. Saturday Kitchen’s James Martin took charge alongside food advisor Denise Spencer- Walker.

“I think it’s massively important to encourage kids to cook like this. Teenagers these days have a reputation for being unhealthy, but look at this,” he said of the seven 11-16 year old competitors.

“We do these heats all over the country and you might expect the kids up north to be cooking meat and potatoes, but it’s very diverse.”

But even at 13 and 14 years old, the competitors are now quite as young as Martin was when cooking first captured his imagination.

“I was younger than these guys are now. The first thing I ever got excited about cooking was roast dinners with my Mum.

“Then I started in restaurants quite soon, so it was a steep learning curve for me,” he said.

These days, TV and other commitments keep him out for the kitchen, but he does make back behind the ovens “a couple of days a week” at his restaurants in Malton, close to where he grew up on the Castle Howard estate, and Leeds and it has been a succesful year at both ventures.

“Both the restaurants have just got Michelin stars this year, we spent a lot of time changing the menus. November and December are the crazy months for chefs, so we try to get the work done before.

“We’ve got good young teams at both of them, and I’ve got better at delegating. You’ve got to as you get older I think.”

But despite the Michelin stars, Martin said his own taste’s are simpler.

“I do like fancy food but when I got out I’ll order fish and chips, or steak and chips.”

To relax though, he famously loves fast cars and helicopters and is soon to appear on TV away from a kitchen in the BBC’s Racing Legends. As a huge motor racing fan, he said he had to accept the offer when it came.

With both businesses in Yorkshire, Martin is eyeing a move back north from his home near Winchester. “I’ve looked a few places, but nowhere special yet.”

 

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