How does it feel to become one of those chefs that people look up to?
You learn responsibility, you learn by watching others as well and watching the mistakes and the plusses they make. When you work with young catering students you teach them that all this TV stuff is great, but fundamentally you’re a chef at heart that’s where it should always end up. Like I said to Chris, if it all goes tits up tomorrow we grab our knives and we walk back to the kitchen.

Do you enjoy mentoring other young amateur chefs?
Definitely, we’ve had students to my house, teaching them how good food comes from the garden and the ground. They’re more interested in the cars to be honest, but if there’s something here to inspire them that’s the most important thing. It inspired me when chefs came and judged my end of year exams and if I can do that, that’s great.

What’s your favourite dish to cook?
Bacon sarnie or a Sunday roast. You can’t beat a roast chicken.

What type of cooking do you enjoy the most?
I like Thai and stuff like that, Italian is good, classic French is really good as well but probably Thai and Chinese I think are fascinating, the flavours are actually very, very simple but there are so many skills involved in getting it right.

Do you think the rest of the world has changed its opinion on the quality of British cooking?
Oh without a doubt. You can go to France now and you can walk proud as a chef. When I was doing my training you were treated like you were nothing. Now it has just changed, changed so much. And it’s only through the hard work of people who have worked in the industry, it’s not just the chefs, it’s everything.

What would you say is your food heaven and hell?
Food heaven would be chocolate. Food hell would be horseradish, cannot stand it, it’s too strong, bloody horrible. If you grow it in the garden you’ll never get rid of it, awful stuff.

Are you adventurous with your recipes?
I like being creative but I think some people are creative just for creative’s sake. I’m always of the opinion that if it works, don’t mess around with it. It’s great to be creative but you should never forget the art of cooking is great ingredients, cooked simply, and that’s where people go wrong.

What would you say is the highlight of your career?
There are several, I got a professorship this year, which is amazing, from Thames Valley University. There’s been so much over the years, but it was probably this year when I took part in a big race called the Mille Miglia Rally, in Italy. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do because a) to be able to afford to do it and b) how much work it took to be able to do it. It took a hell of a lot of work, not just by me but by everybody else it was a big team effort. It was pretty amazing.

Do you have a favourite culinary experience?
Yeah, my mother makes the most amazing roasts, they taste just like they did when I was eight. My mother is a great cook, there’s nothing better then going home and having Sunday lunch with your mother. The way she makes gravy, it’s proper gravy not that juice stuff. That and probably my grandma’s bacon sandwich, granny’s bacon sandwich was amazing, unbelievable.

You’ve built up quite an impressive repertoire of recipe books now, how does it feel to have them selling so well?
You kind of pinch yourself really, when I did Ready Steady Cook I had a few out, but they just told me the last one’s sold half a million. I haven’t written a new cookbook for two years, they’re anticipating a new one could sell twice, three times that. But again it puts more pressure on you to make things different and make it right.

What advice would you give readers that are budding chefs?
Don’t do it! You get what you put in really. If you want to be the best chef, you’ve got to work with the best chefs, and if you want to work for the best you’ve got to put up with an element of crap. If you’re prepared for it, and if you’re willing to stick at it you’ll get there in the end.

What does Christmas mean to you?
Obviously family and home, and particularly my mother this year because she’s coming for Christmas. Now it means so much more, because my mother looked after me all those years. She was with me for the thick and thin of my career, I think if you can give something back that’s more important than anything.

What do you eat on Christmas Day?
We get a rib of beef, a big six rib. And I cook a lamb and a beef or maybe duck and beef, if my granny was alive she bought some turkey as well. Christmas was about cooking two big roasts for us, we’d cook turkey for the old folks, and the beef for the younger lot. That’s what I’ll probably do this year.

What’s your favourite festive drink?
I’ve just found a new champagne called Drappier, they do this organic champagne, it’s a connoisseur bottle and one to look out for this Christmas. I drink Duval which is like a Belgian, strong beer, those two are my Christmas tipples.

What tips would you give people for a smooth day of cooking on Christmas Day?
Preparation is key, don’t be frightened if you are cooking turkey to cook it really early, take it out and leave it out the oven for 45 minutes, and then roast your potatoes. The biggest mistake is to ram your oven full, it doesn’t cook, it steams, your potatoes don’t go brown and you end up with a disaster. Cook all your veg beforehand, have it all blanched in ice cold water in the fridge. It’s very simple, chefs look at it as a walk in the park, because it’s all about preparation.

You have described many of the events by the cars you’re around at that time, are there any cars that reflect your character best?
Maserati, because it’s the same thing in my career, it goes through absolute highs when it’s going like a song, and then complete bloody disasters when it doesn’t work. And that mixture of working and doesn’t work is 50%, I think the same thing is true with my career. You go through life and you’re on a high then you get kicked back down again.
When I was a young kid training in London I used to see the Ferrari garages and think “one day”, knowing full well I’d never earn enough. But that dream luckily came true when I was able to afford my first car, then a second and a third, and then you start collecting. I’ve always been passionate about it, but everybody has to have a passion outside of their day to day work, if I talked purely about food all day I’d go mad.

Company magazine once voted you one of Britain’s most eligible bachelors, how does that feel?
Not any more, I’m too old! It used to be 18, 19 year olds now it’s 38, 40 year olds. I can’t help the way that I look, I don’t pluck my eyebrows and spend two hours in the mirror, I just get up, put gel on and go to work. You are what you are, and you can’t change that. On Saturday Kitchen I just put on a jacket and go to work, you can’t look good at five o’clock in the morning!

Do you have a personal philosophy that you live by?
Watch what the masses do and do the opposite. Many times throughout my career has my agent gone, ‘are you going to do this, are you going to do that,’ and I’ve said no, because you end up doing what everyone else is doing. I mean look at Gordon and Jamie, fantastic, you can earn an awful lot of money, but the hassle that comes with it is just immense. I mean do you really want that? No. I come back to my little house and take my dog for a walk, it’s great.

What have you got next in store?
Saturday Kitchen is rocking and rolling and there’s a new BBC series in the pipeline, it’s something that’s close to my heart and something I really want to do. I’m looking forward to the cookbook as it’s my first for two years, I think the accumulation of that is enough. We’re looking at a restaurant as well, one in Dubai, but we’ll wait and see.