UK celebrity chef eager to serve Dubai

James Martin will be in Dubai for next week's Jumeira Festival of Taste, and hopes to open an English restaurant in Dubai soon.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by David Hartley / Rex Features ( 655112f )
James Martin
Celebrity chef, James Martin signing his new book 'Desserts', Waterstone's bookshop, Southampton, Britain - 06 Apr 2007
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DUBAI // A British celebrity chef hopes to bring the hearty tastes of northern England to the exotic climes of Dubai. James Martin, whose Yorkshire burr is as authentic as his cooking, plans to look to his roots to realise his dream of opening a restaurant in the city. The chef, who is due to take part in the Jumeirah Festival of Taste next month, said he wants to serve up a slice of old-fashioned British food to expatriates pining for home. "There would be no fancy glasses or posh cutlery. People miss a good old-fashioned Yorkshire tea," he said. "I have eaten in Gary Rhodes and Gordon Ramsay's restaurants in Dubai and while they were OK, I would like to do something different." He said "a traditional English place like Betty's tearooms in York" - an institution in the tourist city - "would be great here". "I just love things like Yorkshire rarebit [Wensleydale cheese on toast], fish and chips and afternoon teas. I was brought up on that kind of food on a farm and have always believed old-fashioned is best. "We never had ready-made meals when I was growing up, it was always freshly cooked, wholesome food. "I am a big fan of British produce and there are plenty of expats who miss that kind of food. "I definitely want to be part of the scene in Dubai. I was approached two or three years ago and was interested but decided it was not the right time. Now is the right time. "If the right place came along and we had a great infrastructure and the right crew, it would certainly be a possibility." Martin, 36, who took part in the inaugural Festival of Taste two years ago, said he was looking forward to returning for the second event. He has already visited once this year to look at potential restaurant sites. "There are opportunities and it is getting busier in terms of the number of chefs opening sites in Dubai. People are moving here to settle down and as it becomes less of a tourist destination and more of a liveable place, it is more of a temptation to have a restaurant here." Martin has appeared on several television programmes and made a name for himself at the age of 12 by cooking for the Queen Mother. His father ran the catering at Castle Howard, a stately home near the family home in Malton, north Yorkshire, and the budding chef began dabbling alongside him from the age of four. He already had years of experience by the time it came to whipping up a rack of lamb, a vacherin - a meringue-like dessert - and a ginger and syrup ice cream for the Queen Mother, who, he recalled proudly, "came into the kitchen afterwards to say thank you". After training in the British seaside town of Scarborough and working in kitchens in his home country and France, he opened the Hotel and Bistro du Vin in Winchester at the age of 21. The venture changed his life. "The restaurant was packed out and word got around in London," he said. "That hardly ever happens outside the capital." Offers of television work soon followed and he became a regular on BBC shows such as Ready Steady Cook and Saturday Kitchen, which he now presents. He has also presented Kids Eat The Funniest Things; James Martin Sweet and Sweet Baby James, focusing on his passion for desserts; Yorkshire's Finest, where he sourced and cooked local produce; Use Your Loaf; Out Of The Frying Pan and even a show called Deck Dates on which he played Cupid, persuading contestants to cook a meal for a romantic blind date. He was once voted one of Britain's most eligible bachelors by Company magazine and has been linked to a series of glamorous women, including Barbara Broccoli, the producer of James Bond films. Martin has been in a relationship with Sally Kettle, a former Miss England winner, for two years. The car-loving cook's website shows him in front of a stove and draped across one of his Ferraris. Fans can download images of him performing on Strictly Come Dancing, the British TV dance contest he competed in three years ago. He currently owns 19 cars, including a Maserati 1948, two Ferraris and an Audi RS4. "My days off are very expensive. I tend to buy one a month and the garage is getting very crowded. I find driving them is a release and the complete opposite of my normal job." His appearance in Dubai will be squeezed in between festivals in Spalding and Scarborough, in Britain. "They are very different but I am really looking forward to coming to Dubai," he said. "I had great fun at the last festival. The highlight will be cooking on a yacht. We have some great dishes planned and are cooking different kinds of food every night." The events he will be co-hosting from Nov 9-13 include a gala dinner in Madinat Jumeirah, a cooking show with some dance steps thrown in at Rhythm and Basil in the Souk Madinat Jumeirah, an afternoon tea in the Burj al Arab and a day on-board a yacht cooking lunch for 15 chosen guests. Tickets for events are available from or by calling 04 301 7781. tyaqoob@thenational.a