I’m one of the 3.5 million people who tune into Saturday Kitchen on a Saturday. On those Saturdays, where I’m not rushing out of the door first thing, you’ll find me coffee in hand settled on the sofa waiting to see what James Martin and invited chefs will be cooking up. For me this slow paced Saturday morning signals the start of the weekend. So when an email popped into my inbox asking if I, and a guest, would like to visit the Cactus Studios and go behind the scenes of a programme I love to watch, with a chef I have loved since he hit our screens, there really was only one possible answer…….yes please!
This was one Saturday that I didn’t mind rushing out the door at 7am. I picked my SIL up en route, grabbed a coffee at the train station and hopped on the train to London to watch Saturday Kitchen, literally, LIVE. We arrived at the studios, in Camden, about 15 minutes before the start of the show which was just enough time to get a glimpse of the studios and make it to the green room. Which of course is not green at all, but did have very nice white leather chairs, light grey decor and the most wonderful arched windows. James popped in to say hello just before he went live on air and then it was time to get settled. We watched the first dish, by Alexis Gauthier, being cooked from the green room. This was an Umami Bomb (parmasan and wild mushroom custard) which we got to taste and for me the overwhelming flavour was mushroom.
Whilst the VT was running, we moved from the green room down to the studio floor to watch from behind the cameras. Nestled in the corner of the studio we watched James make a swiss roll with fresh blackberries and vanilla cream. To be able to watch James bake close up was the best experience. I’ll definitely be taking away the wet towel tip for rolling up the perfect swiss roll. We tucked into the swiss roll back in the green room and I have to say it was the lightest swiss roll I have ever tasted.
We watched the next chef, Aggi Sverrisson, cook his dish of king crab, asparagus, garlic and hazelnuts from the gallery. As well as the famous omelette challenge. Getting to sit in the gallery and listen to the executive producer and team talk to James and to manage the production of the programme was really interesting. In my day job I’m used to having TV crews and presenters interview staff but I never get to see the result until it is broadcast. So it was really nice to be able to see a programme filmed in its entirety with all the elements that make it happen without any editing.
For the last part of the show, Heaven or Hell, we were back behind the cameras. My SIL and I both wanted Hell which was panko-coated squid with palm sugar and coriandar pesto. The studio guest, the Olympian gymnast Louis Smith, wanted Heaven which was jerk chicken. We were delighted when the vote was for the squid. I love seafood and squid is one of my favourites. Again this was another superb dish, the squid was delicate and the sauce was amazing.
I might have already said that James has been my favourite chef for nearly 20 years now. I couldn’t get enough of his recent show where he put his twist on traditional American bakes. For me it was the perfect mix – James, cakes and America – what more does a girl need. To be able to see the show being filmed and tasting the food, which tastes as delicious as it looks on screen, has been a wonderful experience. At this point I’d like to thank the BBC Good Food Show for inviting me and my guest to watch Saturday Kitchen LIVE. I’ll never be able to watch the show again without thinking about the day I spent behind the scenes.
After filming we also had a tour of the Cactus Studios. I’d already marveled at the gorgeous building, which was originally built by Darwin as a school, but since has had many different occupants. On the ground floor are the studios where Saturday Kitchen is filmed and a second studio to the side of this along with a sound room. There are practice studios that are set up exactly as the studio kitchen is. This is where the dishes are practiced during the week ahead of the live show to get some of the close up shots that you see. We learnt that the chefs trial their dishes in their own restaurants and it isn’t until the Saturday morning that they practice against time. The next two floors belong to the Cactus Kitchens. This is an amazing space that has been created in conjunction with Michel Roux Jnr and Amanda Ross, Managing Director of Cactus TV. Whatever your cooking skills, you’ll learn from the nations top TV chefs and wine experts and take away amazing culinary experiences.
My time behind the scenes of Saturday Kitchen did not end there, I took part in my own omelette challenge and also interviewed James.
If you’re also a fan of Saturday Kitchen you can soak up the Saturday Kitchen experience at the Summer BBC Good Food Show at the NEC, Birmingham. Hosted by James Martin, in the Brand New 2,000 seater Supertheatre, sponsored by Tesco Real Food, this live edition of the Saturday morning treat will include Food Heaven and Hell, recipe demonstrations and of course celebrity guests and wine experts Peter Richards and Susy Atkins! Guest Chefs will include the legendary Tom Kitchin and Theo Randall plus surprise celebrity guests. Don’t forget you can use my exclusive discount code GC15 to get 15% of standard price tickets for the summer show.
Saturday in the Kitchen with James Martin……yes please!