Introduction

Introduction

By
James Martin
Contains
0 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
9781849499545
Photographer
Peter Cassidy

Why France, you might ask, and why now?

Well, it’s been over thirty-five years since I went there as a young chef and, in a way, I owe it all to France. I mean, it was those early trips that set the course of my career – from the unforgettable taste of my first croissant to seeing a steak cooked ‘blue’, not burnt to a cinder.

Back then it wasn’t easy training as a chef in France, but I was there for a reason, and I could put up with the nineteen-hour days peeling veg in the kitchen of a Michelin two-starred restaurant, and head chefs giving me grief, as long as I got to learn about food. For me, it’s always been about the food; everything else comes second.

While I’d wanted to go back for a long time – to see what had changed, and to taste again the food that had changed me – ultimately what triggered this TV series and book was a phone call from Keith Floyd’s daughter, Poppy. She wanted to know if I’d be interested in her dad’s old car, his much-loved Citroën 2CV. My answer was never really in any doubt, and seventy-two hours later a battered and bruised 2CV was in my garage. Even better, it had been left untouched and smelt like a spit bucket at Oddbins, a heady combination of musk and good Burgundy. Best of all, it now took pride of place in my garage, providing the inspiration for a very special road trip.

Like most people, I first came across Keith Floyd on TV. But it wasn’t long before our paths crossed in real life. While I was at catering college, he came to host a gourmet evening for a hundred and fifty people, and I was one of the students in the kitchen. I remember he was supposed to stand up between courses to announce each dish – but, Keith being Keith, right at the beginning of the meal he strode up to the lectern, uttered a few words to introduce all of us eager young cooks to the room and then promptly fell off the stage!

Now, as a TV chef myself, I’ve been lucky enough to cook with some of the best chefs in the world, but if you asked me to name the greatest of all the TV chefs, I’d have to say Keith Floyd. For me, the three-minute clip of him battling the elements on the deck of a fishing trawler has never been beaten: it was all done in one take, and he nearly swore three times. It’s still one of the best TV cookery moments ever, and one I find myself watching time and time again.

Having been in this game for more than twenty years now, I know how difficult it can be, and how easy he made it all look. He never pretended to be anything other than what he was: a man with a passion for food and for life, and with a talent that was enjoyed by so many.

Some thirty years since Floyd on France first screened, the chance to follow in his footsteps, and to return to the places that have shaped my own life and career, was too good to resist. I hope this book will give you a small taste of what I learnt and the things I discovered on my French adventure, and that you’ll enjoy the trip as much as I did. One thing’s for sure, it won’t be another thirty-odd years before I head back.

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