James Martin cooks up a first class menu for Virgin Trains

Celebrity chef James Martin was back in Leeds yesterday for the launch of his new Virgin Trains menu.

Thursday, 23rd June 2016, 1:32 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd June 2016, 2:33 pm
Date: 21st June 2016. Picture James Hardisty. Virgin Trains executive chef James Martin, with one of the Yorkshire suppliers James Wright, from Taste Tradition based in Ripon and Ali Watson, Director of Customer Experience at Virgin Trains East Coast at Leeds City Station to promote the new First Class menu on the service.

Amid the sumptuous sausage rolls, bespoke jams, muffins and delicate slices of cake, the chef, who formerly ran The Leeds Kitchen at Alea Casino until it closed in 2013, said he would not rule out a return to the city.

James has been hired by Virgin as their executive chef and is working alongside Yorkshire producers such as Ripon-based Taste Tradition Ltd, who deliver rare breed meats to the catering industry.

Speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post, he said: “It’s great to be back in Leeds, I think it has some great restaurants and I’m glad it’s got the [Michelin] star again. Michael O’Hare [of The Man Behind The Curtain] is a talented chef.”

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Asked whether he would ever consider a return to Leeds, he said: “Never say never but right now I’m concentrating on other things.”

James opened the The Leeds Kitchen inside the Alea Casino building in 2011 but it was forced to close suddenly when the Alea shut down in 2013, a decision he says was entirely out of his hands.

It’s 20 years since we first saw James grace our TV screens and he has recently given up presenting Saturday Kitchen, which he did for 10 years.

He said: “Ten years suddenly creeps up on you. I just felt it was the right time for me and ten years felt better than nine. I’ve got plenty of things going on at the moment, I’ve just teamed up with Asda and Virgin Trains and I’m opening a restaurant in Hampshire shortly.”

He added: “I’m really proud of the Virgin Trains menu, we’ve tweaked a few things and made others happen - we even managed to get a fried egg onto the breakfast menu. This is a menu we built from scratch.”

Ali Watson, director of customer experience at Virgin Trains, said: “I believe with this new menu we have the best food on any train.”