Chef set for a taste of life on Jimmy’s Farm

Sarah HardyTelly chef James Martin swaps the studio for a spot of country living as he visits Jimmy's Farm this weekend.Sarah Hardy

I happened to mention that i was interviewing James Martin to a couple of friends - both sensible, educated women, one in her 50s and one in her 30s. The reaction was the same - sheer, unadulterated lust!

So it seems that James, that rather suave 30-something Yorkshireman who appears very regularly on our tellies, is a real hit with the ladies - it must be the thought of a decent-looking chap who can actually cook, too! Especially puddings, but more of that later.

He's visiting our part of the world on Sunday as he takes part in a new initiative by James Doherty, of Jimmy's Farm fame - incidentally, quite a nice looking chap, too!

Harvest at Jimmy's, as the two-day food and music festival is being called, sees a host of famous names descending on the farm near Ipswich to perform and get people to enjoy themselves while learning a bit more about food, its production and the importance of buying and eating local goodies.

Artists such as Seth Lakeman, KT Tunstall, Athlete and Badly Drawn Boy are due to perform as well as cooking stars like Gennaro Contaldo and Jamie Oliver's Fifteen. And plenty of children's cookery sessions are planned, too.

Showing a rather laid back nature, James informs me that he hadn't a clue what he'll be doing. 'I'll do what I'm told,' he says. 'Whatever anyone wants me to do.'

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He fully expects to cook something using some of the pork produced at the farm, explaining: 'That sounds good to me - and I always like to do puddings!'

James is a big champion of local produce, saying: 'I've been going on about it for years, it's what I'm all about.' He's very keen to praise Norfolk for its great produce, saying: 'All that fish, those great vegetables, it's fantastic, you are very lucky!'

He was born into a foodie family as his father ran the catering business at the gorgeous Castle Howard in north Yorkshire and James often helped out. His formal training began when he was 16 and he went to Scarborough Technical College where he was student of the year for three years running. After a spell in France and aged just 21, he became the head chef of the newly opened Hotel and Bistro du Vin in Winchester where he changed the menu every day.

The rest, as they say, is history and James is now very much one of our best known and best loved chefs - but don't expect him to be interested in the celebrity game. 'That's not me at all, I'm afraid,' he says. 'I just don't get it.'

James will be rushing up to Suffolk straight from his popular Saturday morning cookery show on BBC1, Saturday Kitchen. The series sees James and various guests - both those from the cookery world and those from the entertainment scene - chatting, cooking and eating. 'Yes, it's fun and a great way to earn a living,' laughs James.

The series runs for three months and sees plenty of interesting guests lined up, including Peter Andre. 'But we haven't got Delia, yet,' he says. 'She's probably busy with her football on a Saturday!'

North Norfolk chef Galton Blackiston of Morston Hall Hotel is a regular guest, with James describing him as a top guy. 'He has created some great dishes for us - and live telly is always so difficult, you never quite know what is going to happen.'

James is a great car fan, but he doesn't think he'll bring one of his high performance cars to our part of the world. 'I don't fancy those farm lanes,' he laughs.

Away from work, James will be watching the new series of Strictly Come Dancing as he reached the semi finals back in 2005. 'It was great fun, I've never been so fit in my life, and I lost three stone!'

He's hasn't yet decided who he'll back and wonders what the new judging set-up will be like. 'It'll be interesting, that's for sure,' he reckons.

He's also busy promoting his new book, My Kitchen, saying: 'I'm on a book tour so will be seeing plenty of the country - and getting to try a good few regional dishes.'

And he's also just started another cook book, called Good Food so, with plenty of television work on the horizon too, he looks like being a very busy boy!

The event runs from 11am-11pm on Saturday September 12, and from 11am-10.30pm on Sunday. The festival is a sell-out, although a limited number of day tickets will be available on both days: adult �25, youth (13-17 years) �15, under 12s free.

ree shuttle buses will be running from Ipswich station to the farm from 10.30am to 6.30pm and the return journey from 9pm onwards. Further information at www.harvestatjimmys.com