Grabbing a miniature Crunchie from a box of Cadbury heroes means one less hand for your smartphone, but it's worth us. Pick up a box of Cadbury heroes today. Stay at home and share them with your family or friends. Sometimes it's the little things that bring us together. They're part Kenny show on news, talk with Marter private network during current restrictions, don't ignore your health concerns. Our expert team is ready to help. Now, you will know my next guest from popular television shows like Top Gear and the Ground Tour, but his most recent endeavor requires him to delve into the culinary arts.
Cook arrived on Amazon Prime on the 13th of November, accompanied by his book O Cook 60 Easy Recipes That Any Idiot Can Make.
James, good morning and welcome. Good morning and thank you for that generosity there, describing my work as the culinary arts. No one has said that yet.
Gentle irony on my part, because, you know, looking at your book, if I was going to get swimming lessons, I would go to someone who could swim.
Yes. In reading your book, you're inviting me to learn to cook from someone who got.
Yes, but at least it means I won't patronize you or assume anything on your part because I don't have it on my part. You see, so you're we're learning together in the spirit of cooperation and mindfulness or something like that. Well, the book is divided into sections, you know, brunch and pasta, pub grub, rose curry night, Asian fusion, the great outdoors, spongy things. And then you have a thing on store cupboard saviours, which is always useful if you're trying to rustle something up.
But but the thing is that you start with a boiled egg. Now, Nigella's got herself into hot water because she's been teaching people how to butter their toast.
Yes, I've been following this. And I think that maybe I don't know if it's a joke. Is it? It may just be a very elaborate spoof. I mean, there are techniques to buttering toast, but more important than that is keep your toast up. Right. As I think we discuss in the show, a lot of people don't realize that it's why we used to have toast racks. They've gone out of fashion. That they were is the reason it wasn't to make the toast look nice.
It was to keep it upright. So it didn't go soggy.
Yeah. And warm enough. So it melts the butter, but not so burnt that you can't eat it anyway.
Why are we talking about toast? We should be talking about what you do. And now you have all sorts of interesting things. I mean, even your boiled egg is accompanied by soldiers of avocado and prosciutto. So it's not just plain ordinary food.
But tell me, I mean, before you embarked on this operation, what did you cook for yourself?
Well, I had a standard repertoire of five things beyond beyond the obvious on toast stuff, which everybody can do. But I could make shepherd's pie, a fish pie, a roast chicken pan, al pesto and a sort of random hangover cure. Cheesy pasta. That was pretty much it. Those are the things I could make with confidence. If you said, James, it's your turn to cook, you would get one of those and it would probably be the roast chicken.
Now, you have traveled far and wide, particularly on the grand tour, and you've sampled the local cuisine pretty much everywhere you've gone, whether it's roadside food or rather highfalutin stuff in the nice five star hotels that you might find yourself in.
And you're very tempted to bring you've attempted to bring some of these out to the book and to the series.
Well, I think the thing that that that brings the thing it brings to me is an appetite for variety, which doesn't necessarily mean you have to be sophisticated. Japanese food seems terribly sophisticated, but actually to the Japanese, it's just food, you know, it's what they eat. And one of the guiding principles of the show and the book, because it is for beginners, is that everything in there can be cooked with ingredients that you would typically find in a small local supermarket or decent corner shop, as we have called it in the old days.
But that doesn't mean you can't be quite adventurous. You can't have a go at making, you know, some simple Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese type things, you know, like noodle soups and so on. It is amazing what you can get in quite modest shops these days. And, you know, going back to when I was a student at the local spa as it was on the university campus, I mean, I don't really remember what was in there.
I don't really remember what I ate when I was in my 20s. I think it probably was just toast with occasionally some stuff on it. But the world has moved on in a rather delightful way. You can buy, you know, the little although there's a small Tesco at the end of my road and it really is one of those little metro ones. But it has you know, it has Thai cooking ingredients and Indian cooking ingredients and some quite exotic breads and dozens of cheeses.
It's just it's fantastic. It's I find it incredibly exciting, probably because I don't do it very often. You know, going to the supermarket is a big treat. It's not something I do three times a week. But but I enjoy it. It thrills me. And that student food actually is normally just suckage for Yeah.
Course stuff that you're drinking now and you see pastas when you're working on presenting television programs, you know, it's important to get on with with the crew and with one notable exception in Top Gear, that actually happened by and large.
But here, when you're doing this series, you find yourself at odds with them all the time and you confess to becoming grumpy and coming across as grumpy because of the intrusions of the crew.
Yes, I am slightly, slightly embarrassed about it and ashamed of myself because those people on the crew and in the production team, I've worked with them for many years and I love them all dearly. And they've been a great help to me and everything I've done. But when you're cooking, it's not like presenting a show about cars or or the history of the lawnmower or something like that. You know, everybody knows a bit about cooking and more importantly, everybody has an opinion on this and they will let you know.
And it is infuriating. And I've said many times over the last few weeks, I've I've gone from being disdainful of angry chefs, Gordon Ramsay in particular, to being entirely sympathetic with them, because I'm amazed that they don't just hack somebody's head off. It's so infuriating. You can sense it coming from the crew. You start, you know, so taking an onion or chopping up an avocado and you feel a slight brisling and you think they think I'm doing this wrong.
And they're going to tell me in a minute. And lo and behold, they do a bit like walking down, walking down the street. And I don't know, Jeremy Clarkson was doing a piece to camera about his farm for the farm so that he's making any walk over and say, no, actually, I don't think you're right about that. I think you should apply to it in the other direction. You wouldn't do that. So why did people do it?
Does yeah, it did make me a bit bad tempered. You quite right. And that's Paul.
I presume, though, given that you're a self-confessed, a novice at the cooking, they all probably think they do know more than you are. They're almost certainly.
Yes, they do. But that's that's not the point. You have to let me fail. You have to let me love.
Do you ever pay attention to critics? I mean, the critics have reviewed the book of the show and so on. Do you care what they think or say?
We all pretend we don't, but we all read them. Of course, I yeah, I do care a bit if I think they've got it wrong or they've missed the point. But on the whole, I can take it on the chin in many ways, to be honest. I'm more interested in in peer review, through social media and so on, because I find that more telling. More telling is that if that doesn't sound too, that's more direct, though, isn't it?
It's much more direct. Abdu ever respond to social media posts?
Oh, yeah, all the time. It's great fun. I mean, if somebody is just being rude or being a troll, but a lot of people have, you know, positive things to say. A lot of people have quite constructive criticisms and even a few tips. I mean, even even social media can't help trying to tell you how to do it. That's just it's in the nature of cooking something everybody wants to tell you. But it's you know, it's all good fun.
Yeah. Now, tell me this. I've read that you became co-owner of a pub. Yes. Why did you do it? I mean, were you just looking for somewhere to to flush flush your money down the toilet? No, no, no.
It definitely wasn't that. It's it was it's not it's not really a business venture. I don't expect it to make me rich or anything. It was mainly because the pub near my little country escape hovel was going to close down and it was probably going to be turned into houses or a shop or something. And I thought, I don't want to live somewhere where I don't have a pub within walking distance because that would just be unbearable. So with another bloke, we bought the pub and yes, a lot of people have said what a mad idea and maybe it is.
But I still believe that a decent pub will survive its bad pubs that closed down. Everybody goes on about pubs. Closing down the pub is doomed. I don't actually think it is. I think if if the pub can move forward with the times a bit without losing the spirit of the pub and what it is, then it should be OK. And for the one we were open, we were pretty packed out. So there you go. It works.
And then you were shut down and then we just had nothing to do with the health inspector, just simply the from from covid-19. And it's just interfering government.
Yet you're quite finicky when it comes to reviewing cars and so on. I saw a review you did online of your.
Yeah, I think you bought a Tesla three. The three stress was yes it was the s the bigger one. OK, and the one thing that really irritated you was the noise of the boots.
It made a little beep, beep, beep when it was closing down and this disturbed the Selvam countryside silence early morning when you might be going about your business.
Exactly that. Yes, it drives me up the wall. I don't I mean, it's is an American car and, you know, American culture of litigation and liability and so on does mean that they're bit overkill on safety. So it makes a beep to say the boot is closing the trunk, as they would say. But I know it's closing because I've just closed it. You know, it doesn't need to make that noise.
You've told it to close and it's closed it. Thank you very much. Yes. I'm intelligent enough not to put my head in it whilst it's coming down so we can just close quietly and not make a fuss about it.
I'm just wondering, do you bring this particular attitude then to the food that you are presented with?
I don't I don't like to be a food pontes. I'm always grateful to have food because I know there are a lot of people who don't. But I suppose. I suppose I do enjoy it when it's particularly good, like what I'm saying is I can appreciate the difference, I think, but I'm not really a complainer. I'm not one of those people who likes to show how sophisticated and artistic and sensitive I am by saying, oh, this food is just so unbearable and so terrible.
I can't stand that sort of thing. I just think, eat it, shut up and be grateful. And if it happens to be really good, that's a bonus. Yeah.
Food as fuel and sometimes with with knobs on, I suppose.
Well, James, the final question really is about whether or not after embarking on this exercise of teaching yourself to cook in public on television and writing the accompanying book, whether you're still cooking those recipes or whether you've gone back to your favorite five know I'm still cooking them and trying some new things as well.
I've actually been told by Sarah my other half, she just left a simple note on the table a few weeks back that said, Please stop cooking.
It was that that though, yes, I'm still quite into it. And I mean, obviously, we didn't plan it like this and we couldn't possibly have known that lockdown is a great time for this show to come out because people are looking for something new to learn and a way of spinning out the hours and filling them with something entertaining and making your own food and having a go at new recipes is a good way of doing it. I've been sent some fabulous pictures on Twitter and Instagram and attempts at my recipes by other people, some of which look good and some of which are obviously complete disasters.
But that's okay because that's how you learn.
So new ways to cook and also new ways on social media to abuse.
James May, who's looking for a James look, thank you very much for joining us. The new book is called Oh Cook. It accompanies the Amazon Prime series, which is now available, also called OKOK, subtitled Sexy 60 Easy Recipes That Any Idiot Can Make.
James May, thank you very much for joining us.
Grabbing a miniature Crunchie from a box of Cadbury heroes means one less hand for your smartphone, but it's worth us. Pick up a box of Cadbury heroes today. Stay at home and share them with your family or friends. Sometimes it's the little things that bring us together.