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James Martin on his love for Taste of Grampian and why a restaurant in Scotland isn’t off the cards

James Martin at Taste of Grampian.
James Martin at Taste of Grampian.

He was last spotted in the north-east taking selfies with a baby Highland cow, but James Martin is ready to take on Taste of Grampian this weekend as he gears up to cook at P&J Live for the first time.

The esteemed British chef has just celebrated his 200th Saturday Morning show on ITV and welcomed more than 2,000 diners through his restaurant’s doors the day before, he tells me when we speak.

He seems as energetic and enthusiastic about the festival as he was when he was first announced as one of the celebrity chefs for the 2021 event in 2020.

And despite having had it in his diary for nearly three years, he’s finally making the trip north to Aberdeen this Saturday (June 4).

James is no stranger to Taste of Grampian having hosted cooking demos at Scotland’s biggest one-day food and drink festival in 2017 and 2018, however, he is yet to be acquainted with the north-east’s P&J Live arena.

James Martin takes a selfie with a young Highland cow.

He said: “It is good to be back. Since Covid the restaurants have been mad – it is like 100mph. The Jubilee weekend will be good and I’m sure we’ll have another great show.

“Everybody knows that I’m a big fan of Scotland. When I was up there last time I got some new suppliers including Blackthorn Salt and I’m now using them in the restaurant. It is not just the demos which are great fun, but for me, I get to meet new suppliers.

“Just because it is a new venue it is still all about the people that come to support it and the great produce.”

Supporting local at the heart of Taste of Grampian

Hot off the back of his tour James Martin Live, which took him to Edinburgh and Glasgow, the 49-year-old has been enjoying getting back out in front of audiences.

He will host three cooking demos at the event at 9.30am, noon and 2.30pm, with each event showcasing a range of different dishes. Si King of The Hairy Bikers is the other celebrity chef lined-up for the event.

Festivalgoers watch on in 2017.

He added: “The appetite is there. It is more important for the producers as they are who you want to support at these events. People’s love of food hasn’t waivered.

“There’s great meat, lamb and beef, and we shouldn’t forget the fish so I’ll use some amazing fish. I’ll use some great raspberries and soft fruits.

“Each session will be different. I’ll probably do four different dishes or so. It is a mini version of the Saturday show and people are traveling for it so I want to make sure they have plenty to enjoy.”

James cooking up a storm in 2017.

Is a Scottish restaurant on the cards?

Growing his restaurant empire, James didn’t deny that a new Scottish venue may be on the table for him when asked, but he’s keeping his cards close to his chest for now.

He’s already joined forces with Scottish tattie brand Albert Bartlett to open SpudULike by James Martin which already has nine venues, two of which are based in Scotland, and is focusing his efforts on his current venues this year.

“I’ve got a business SpudULike with Ronnie Bartlett who runs Albert Bartlett based in Airdrie. We’re looking at sites and bits and pieces but it is early days yet.

Live during one of his previous demonstrations at Taste of Grampian.

“The weird thing about this business is that what sites used to be successful are not necessarily what people want to go to location-wise now.

“People’s shopping and eating habits have changed. With the price of food going up and everything else, it is nice to look at, but I don’t want to rush into it.

“Everyone is in the same boat. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you are, of the level you are at. Everyone is in it. It is about streamlining as a business and still offering customers value for money.

“The restaurants are busy so we’ll be focusing on that and really looking after what we have got and the team.”

James working away.

What’s next for James Martin?

With bookings in his diary well into 2026, the next project that will come to fruition is his new book which he will launch later this year. Although it won’t be too soon – as he tells me while we chat that he is photographing his latest work of art next week.

“I’m working on a new book so that is something to look forward to. The show is also doing well and people seem to enjoy it. When we started it was only meant to be six shows, but we’ve just done the 200th.

The chef has been known to get selfies with some of the crowd when out and about.

“I won’t be able to stick around this time after the festival as I have Jubilee celebrations in central London the next day.

“I’ve got two or three festivals this year as I’ve got a lot of work commitments. It has been a crazy year.

“It was a packed house last time I was at Taste of Grampian so I’m looking forward to doing it all over again.”

Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) is the headline sponsor, and the festival will be further supported by Opportunity North East, Aberdeenshire Council, The Press and Journal and The Evening Express.

Tickets for the festival are priced at £12 each and children under 12 go free.

There is a booking fee of £1.50 on Ticketmaster and a £2.50 service charge. Parking at P&J Live is free.

The chef demonstrations cost £15 and are also available to purchase now.

Taste of Grampian runs from 9am to 6pm at P&J Live in Dyce, Aberdeen.

For more on Taste of Grampian…