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What F1 legend Jody Scheckter taught James Martin about cooking

James Martin, became head chef of the Hotel Du Vin in Winchester at just 22

While most chefs would name-check culinary legends like Michel Roux and Marco Pierre White as their inspiration, James Martin likes to look further field - to the racetrack.

Chatting on a special two-part episode of White Wine Question Time, the TV chef said he’s learnt a lot about how to run a business from Formula One, and in particular his best friend and ex-F1 World Champion racing driver, Jody Scheckter.

“I'm fascinated by his work ethic and fascinated by him,” he told host Kate Thornton. “His brain is immense, as his attention to detail. F1 drivers have got an attention to detail like no other. You can learn so much about it in terms of the way you run a business by looking at an F1 team. It's quite fascinating.”

Jody Scheckter, a former F1 driver, won the Drivers' Championship in 1979 with Ferrari.

Asked by Kate how Formula One has influenced him, James pointed to his show Saturday Morning with James Martin on ITV. He said, compared to most shows where everyone wraps and leaves, James has taken notice from how F1 drivers deal with post-race analysis.

“Everybody goes and has a meeting debrief,” he explained. “What was good, what was bad, what was not good, what could be better? And that's every single time we do the Saturday show. Every single time we do it.”

One of the things Formula One drivers are known for is their attention to detail, and this is something that’s really resounded with James, who tries to do the same in his work.

“If you stayed at the hotel [Chewton Glen, where James heads up the restaurant and cookery school] and you eat all the strawberries that are in the fruit basket in the rooms… The following night, we then put an extra bowl of strawberries in the room,” he said.

“Then, if two years later you came back and came to the restaurant, we'll say: ‘Madam, we haven't got strawberries on the menu, but we believe you like them. The chef’s created this dessert. Would you want it?’ It's the attention to detail.”

The TV chef did say though this minute attention to detail can cause trouble some time.

“It can be a bit of a problem when somebody brings a mistress in,” he joked. “That's a bit of an issue!”

James, who has been friends with Jody for a long time, said it’s not only this detail-orientated focus he admires – his mate is also an extremely hard worker and willing to try his hand at anything, including his current passion, biodynamic farming.

“You've got to admire his work ethic,” he said. “He left the F1 business in the early 80s and then set up this company in America, which did really, really well. And now he’s just bought this farm in Hampshire and done the same thing again.

“He's got 4,500 Buffalo roaming around in Hampshire. He produces his own mozzarella. His own Champagne is amazing!”

Jody now owns Laverstoke Park Farm in Hampshire, where he produces mozzarella cheese.

The former F1 champion has also taught James the importance of doing what he really loves – and that trying to do too much is never a good thing.

“Whatever he's done, he does everything brilliantly and I kind of learned from that really,” Jame said, singing the praises of his best mate.

“People think I'm doing loads, but in actual fact I'm not doing as much as the other chefs out there. I haven't got 80 odd restaurants and stuff like that. I’m not interested in that sort of stuff but it’s important to do stuff that you enjoy.”


Hear James Martin talk about what it’s really like being an up-and-coming chef, his regrets and his dream dinner party menu on a special two-part edition of White Wine Question Time. Listen on iTunes and Spotify.