Me and my school photo: James Martin remembers being quiet and fairly shy

Me and my school photo: James Martin remembers being quiet and fairly shy



21:53 GMT, 6 July 2012

This is a picture of me aged seven at Amotherby School in Malton, North Yorkshire. I was a pupil there from the age of five to 11. I was quite quiet and fairly shy, and very well-behaved.

My family were farmers on the Castle Howard Estate, near York. I spent a lot of time playing or helping my dad farm chickens and pigs, so I was used to seeing animals as food from early on.

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James Martin remembers being quiet and shy at school

I was very practical and liked being creative. Making model cars and doing Saturday jobs to earn pocket money were my forte. Academia, alas, was not. I was severely dyslexic, which was only discovered five or so years ago, when I was trying to read the autocue for the first time on Saturday Kitchen. So school was an ordeal at times. I was hopeless at spelling but had no idea why. I dreaded English classes as I’d have to write out a hundred times all the mistakes I’d made in my essays.

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Ironically James didn't get on with his cookery teacher

I left school with only one GCSE, in art, and looking back, I feel sad no one realised I was dyslexic and gave me the help I needed. But then I went to Scarborough Technical College to study catering, and my life improved dramatically. My saviour was a teacher called Ken Allanson. Within two days of being there, he’d taken me aside and told me I had the makings of a very good chef. It was a tonic to my soul.

With Ken as my mentor, I was top of the class for the next three years. Our end-of-year exams were judged by high-profile chefs such as Antony Worrall Thompson and Brian Turner, both of whom offered me jobs when I left college. I decided to join Antony at his restaurant One Ninety Queen’s Gate, in London’s Kensington. I worked in the capital for three years, then moved to Hampshire, where I became head chef at Winchester’s Hotel Du Vin.

I was ‘discovered’ for television when Loyd Grossman came into the restaurant one evening with a TV executive pal, which led to me being offered a spot on Ready Steady Cook. After that, my media career went from strength to strength. I’m a very lucky man. If I hadn’t had Ken to enthuse and inspire me, I’m not sure where I would have ended up in life.

James Martin is head judge of the Red Tractor Beef And Lamb Make It With Mince Challenge.