TV chef James Martin's passion

James Martin is that chef on your TV on Saturday mornings. His passion for tasty food is only matched by his love of fast bikes, fast cars and pretty much anything that runs on super-unleaded

You wouldn’t believe the amount of cars and bikes I have bought straight after filming on a Saturday morning. In between shoots all I do is sit and thumb through the Autotrader, if something catches my eye then it sticks in my head. While I’m cooking, live on TV all I can think about is how quickly I can go and look at the car or bike after work. At least six or seven times I have ridden home on something completely different to what I travelled to work on!

I’m into cars as much as I am bikes, always have been. I lost a couple of mates to bikes when I was a teenager though so while the interest was there I ended up using a car to get me to and from Scarborough college where I studied catering. I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a chef, I think I was about 11 when I decided that was the career for me. I grew up on a farm and used to tear around on all manner of field bikes, crashing a lot but having loads of fun. The day I finished college I said to my dad that I wanted to go and work in London, so he took me home where I packed a bag, then he drove me to the train station and told me to bugger off and have a good time. I came to London with 50 quid in my pocket and not a clue what to do. 24 hours later I was working in a kitchen in Kensington.

When I finished my shifts in the kitchen I used to spend my time pressing my nose up against the glass of fancy car and bike dealerships, day dreaming about one day being able to afford such beautiful machines. Cheesy but true! I started doing okay and ended up buying a Vauxhall Nova, not very rock and roll but it was all I could stretch to.

I kind of burned my self out and decided to leave the kitchen to join the police when I was 21. My dad had been in the force for ten years and part of me wanted to follow in his footsteps, but only briefly, as I didn’t enjoy it. It was the kick up the arse I needed to throw myself back into cheffing and I went straight back to it. The work was going well, I opened my own place, started doing TV stuff and doing pretty good. I used to go Dockgate Harley dealership to hang out and look at the bikes, they also do a really good burger. I was there one day when I clocked a Harley Fatboy. I just had to buy it, so I did. A month later I bought a Ducati 999. Problem was I hadn’t quite gotten round to getting a licence. I was 24, had two of my dream bikes sitting in the conservatory and couldn’t ride them! That was about the time I realised that I should pass my test. I did, the 999 was swapped for a 999S, which was then swapped for a 999R.

When I did the Good Food Show in Birmingham a guy paid over the odds to have a stand next to mine, knowing that I would be interested in the old school scooters he was selling. He was right and I somehow had to get two of the things home after the show. I’ve always been a sucker for a new set of wheels.

I count my self incredibly lucky to have the collection that I have. At the minute I have (amongst others) a Husqvarna SM, a Blade, a KTM, a few Harleys, and some nice cars. I’ve somehow ended up with an 850bhp ex-Jordan team F1 car, it’s one of the cars that Schumacher and Fisichella used to drive, though I have had the engine swapped for one of the later Cosworth V10’s. I drive it on track when I can. But there is absolutely no chance that I would ever take a bike on track, I’m too scared. I don’t see the point in bike track days, they should just leave it to the guys that are really good at it, guys that can entertain thousands as well as ride the bikes at the limit. A couple of years ago I ended up doing a pillion lap with James Toseland round Brands Hatch, it was ridiculous. I spent half the lap trying to strangle him and the other half of the lap trying to get him to slow down. It was so fast, balls to that. I have ridden bikes fast in a straight line, but who hasn’t? I’ve managed 160 and a bit on the Fireblade and closer to 200mph in a car down a runway. Not big or clever, but loads and loads of fun.

I do spend some time socialising with other bikers that work in TV. We get together for rideouts, mostly to raise money for charities. I don’t like the label ‘celebrity chef’, its slightly over used and conjures up images of a person that I don’t want to be. That’s why I enjoy riding the bikes so much, I can bugger off for a ride to a good greasy spoon, that can be full of bikers and no one gives a shit about what I do. I enjoy the freedom, the camaraderie (and the burgers). Now I find myself standing in the same showrooms that I used to press my nose up against. The difference being that I’m able to buy the things I used to just look at. But I’ve worked bloody hard for them, so it’s fair goes.