James Martin says Saturday Kitchen was a “tough show” to make

Popular presenter reveals how exhausting it was working on the programme – and how surprised he was at the outburst of emotion from fans that greeted his decision to quit

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When James Martin decided to hang up his apron as host of Saturday Kitchen, fans were devastated.

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The popular presenter had been with the programme for ten years and had felt like a friend.

But the former rugby player admits that while the outburst of sadness at his departure caught him by surprise after ten years at the stove it was the only decision to make.

“I didn’t think leaving Saturday Kitchen would be such a big deal,” he told the Sunday Mirror. “I genuinely said to my agent, ‘Stick it out there, but no one will be bothered,’ and next minute it was all over the papers. It was like One Direction splitting up.”

He added that he chose to quit partly because the early wake up calls of the “tough” show were taking its toll.

“I didn’t leave because we didn’t have a sink, or because of Top Gear, or budget cuts. All these rumours! I left because 10 years is a long time. That’s every Friday and Saturday you’re giving up. I had to be in bed by 9pm and up at 3am. It’s a tough show: there’s a lot of content and when that red light comes on it’s just you, cooking and interviewing, with 26 people waffling in your ear.” 

Martin’s last show was on March 26 and he received an emotional send-off with plenty of nostalgia, classic clips from his ten years and an appearance from Bake Off legend Mary Berry.

“None of us ever imagined it would turn out to be what it’s become,” he said on air. “I’m sure the show will be a success for years to come without me. Thank you for watching, thank you the viewer, thank you for being you.”

But what did he do on his first morning off the show?

“My first Saturday off, I took my dog for a walk. The second one, I was 4,000 miles away on my first holiday in seven years. I was walking around Disneyworld on Saturday morning, thinking, ‘This is surreal’, getting texts from my mates about the show.”

His Saturday Kitchen replacements included Michel Roux Jr, Lorraine Pascale and Rick Stein. Martin will continue to host Saturday Kitchen Best Bites on BBC2 on Sunday mornings.

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Saturday Kitchen airs every Saturday at 10am on BBC1