Why TV chef James Martin is the secret ingredient for this year’s Pub in the Park

Why TV chef James Martin is the secret ingredient for this year's Pub in the Park
TV Chef James Martin

The former BBC Saturday Kitchen anchor, who now presents his own eponymously-titled show on ITV every Saturday, will be at the helm of the Tunbridge Wells event, which will welcome the finest purveyors of local food and drink, a slew of seasoned chefs, and a fantastic bill of live music over the weekend of July 10-12.

James, who will also be hosting Pub in the Park in Chichester and joining Tom at the Bath event, says he is really looking forward to hosting in Tunbridge Wells as it’s somewhere that holds quite a few memories for him.

“Tunbridge Wells is the second place we opened a Hotel du Vin around 20 years ago,” he explains. “I was head chef at the original one in Winchester so I came to Tunbridge Wells to do a bit of cheffing when it opened.

“I am really looking forward to coming back as I’ve not been for such a long time and it will be nice to see how much it has changed from what I remember!”

But, hang on, how did James, who runs restaurants in Manchester and at the five-star Chewton Glen Hotel in Hampshire, get involved in Tom Kerridge’s Pub in the Park?

“Last year I got a phone call from Tom to say could I help him out as he had double booked himself! Knowing Tom, it is probably because he was on another holiday,” James laughs. “So I agreed to fill in for him on three dates this year.”

As well as James Martin, the Tunbridge Wells foodie festival will also welcome other top-class chefs, including Atul Kochhar, who runs Indian Essence in Petts Wood, and local boys James and Chris Tanner, who own The Kentish Hare at Bidborough. They will all be cooking up a storm at their individual pop-up restaurants over the course of the weekend, and also doing the odd demo in the event’s kitchen area, which is where you’ll find James.

“It’ll be so good to meet all the great chefs that are coming,” he continues. “Many of them I already know, but others are quite new to me.

“There’s one guy I’m looking forward to meeting again, and that’s Andrew Pern from The Star Inn at Harome [in Yorkshire], as I went to college with him. He was in the year above me, so it will be great to catch up with him as well as all the other chefs I’ve met and worked with over the years.”

But it’s not just a sensational smorgasbord of epicurean eats that will be served up at Pub in the Park. James is also excited about the music bill that’s currently being curated for the weekend.

“So far, Beverley Knight’s playing, and I know her so it’s great she is coming. And then there’s James Blunt and Craig David – it is going to be such fun!”

Pub in the Park not only celebrates food, glorious food, it innovates, too, given the amount of chefs who’ll be demonstrating how they continuously push culinary boundaries in order to keep at the top of their gourmet game.

And James says that with the dawn of a new decade – and Brexit – this is more relevant than ever.

“We are in a new decade so I imagine we will see some new trends and changes in the food world. I think the B-word [Brexit] will also have an influence, and I hope one thing that comes out of it is we begin to appreciate and buy the great food on our own doorstep.

“We have such great food here, especially in Kent. They call it the Garden of England for a reason, and while it is no Yorkshire, there is some great produce. It is not just apples!”

For all the latest information on the Pub in the Park bands playing in Tunbridge Wells, visit pubintheparkuk.com/tunbridge-wells/music


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