James Martin reveals how he got his big break in TV

Virgin Radio

3 May 2024, 14:14

Credit: YouTube @VirginRadioUK

During his chat with Mark Wogan on the Spooning podcast, chef James Martin recalls how he got into telly.

Sitting down with the owner of Homeslice Pizza and son of the late Terry Wogan, James explains how he was working at The Hotel Du Vin when his chance came about. “We were fully booked for 10 months, you couldn't get in,” he says. 

“Lloyd Grossman, Rick Stein and Keith Floyd came in with a lady called Mary Ramsay who was a TV producer. They came, didn’t have a table, so they sat at the bar.

“At the end of the night I came through from the kitchen to the bar with this bandana and long hair and dark eyes, because I hadn’t seen daylight for four months. This lady gave me a card, she said ‘I'm Mary Ramsay, I'm producing this new idea of this new cooking format show. Have you done any television? Have you got an agent?’”

James tells Mark that at the time, “I can't afford a house, I used to sleep on the sofa of the hotel. I had no money, nothing.”

On trying out for the opportunity, James says: “I remember this car arrived and it was my first ever time in a chauffeur driven car. I said, ‘Look, I've got to be out for service.’ I worked through to three o'clock in the morning to get prepped, ready for lunch. A car picked me up at seven. I turn up somewhere in London. There's a lot of people pointing cameras and they were like, ‘Just cook something.’ And I just cooked something and somebody was chatting to me.

“Then I got in the car and drove back. And then all of a sudden she rang me, but she rang me in the middle of service. It was like nine o'clock at night on a Friday night that she rang, and the phone got put through the kitchen. I slammed the phone down. The pastry chef slammed the phone down first then somebody else slammed the phone down.

He continues: “This little note came through, ‘Please ring this number, Mary Ramsay,’ so I phoned her up after service. And she slammed the phone down on me!

“That's how it all started. And I remember my mum turned around to me and said, ‘Well, do it for a week. It may not last.’ It turned out to be the right decision.”

The duo chat about all manner of subjects, including his live shows, his surprising choice of breakfast, the hobby he took on while recovering from his cancer diagnosis, his childhood and more.

Read what Mark Wogan told Chris Evans Breakfast about why he blindfolds guests on his Spooning podcast here

Previous Spooning guests include Claudia Winkleman, Helen Skelton, Gaby Roslin, Gennaro Contaldo, Beverley Knight, Jimmy Carr, Alfie Boe, The Hairy Bikers, James May, Tom Kerridge, Dan Snow, Sophie Habboo, Matt Tebbutt, Paul C Brunson, Joe Wicks and Virgin Radio’s own Ryan Tubridy.

Spooning is out wherever you get your podcasts. Episodes are released every Thursday. Watch along via @virginradiouk on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Tiktok.