Celebrity chefs whip up fundraising frenzy

Celebrity chefs, James Martin and Brian Turner withorganiser Kay Simons at the Food Fight agaist cancer event at Sheffields Crucible Theatre
Celebrity chefs, James Martin and Brian Turner withorganiser Kay Simons at the Food Fight agaist cancer event at Sheffields Crucible Theatre

Celebrity chefs James Martin and Brian Turner turned Sheffield’s Crucible theatre into a giant kitchen on Monday night and squared up to do battle over a hot stove.

The two culinary heavyweights were in town to put their skills to the test in a very public Food Fight.

The end result was a walk-over for Martin – but the real winner was Weston Park Hospital, which shared the proceeds with Cavendish Cancer Care and the Anthony Nolan Trust.

The two Yorkshire chefs were roped in by fundraiser Kay Simons and restaurateur Dave Baldwin, who masterminded the event.

As the theatre filled up with eager audience members, Kay admitted: “I can’t believe we’re actually here after all the preparations!”

BBC presenter Christa Ackroyd acted as referee for the night, egging on the protagonists from the sidelines.

The night began with Turner, in the red corner, demonstrating a traditional stuffed saddle of lamb with all the accompaniments.

Meanwhile Martin, in the yellow corner, produced a four-course meal of soup, mackerel, lamb salad and cream cake, all in the space of 20 minutes.

The pair kept up a steady stream of good-natured banter, pulling no punches in their efforts to secure audience support.

Turner appealed to his supporters’ better nature with a charm offensive. But Martin won them over with behind-the-scenes tales from his popular Saturday Kitchen show and a ribald line in humour.

There were some fascinating facts too: it emerged that the two men first met when Martin was an 11-year-old trainee and Turner became his mentor… Martin’s first TV appearance was on Channel 4’s Zig and Zag… and he has three world records: for the fastest carrot-chopping, the fastest helicopter ride from Land’s End to John o’Groats, and taking off the most bras with one hand in a minute!

Things heated up in the second half as the two went head-to-head in a Ready, Steady, Cook-style battle, transforming a shopping bag of goodies into gourmet masterpieces.

The dishes came thick and fast – so did the dirty tricks, with a fair amount of sabotage and cheating in both camps.

The audience had the final say, showing the yellow card that gave a decisive victory to Martin.

The celebrities then decamped to Baldwin’s Omega for a VIP dinner and auction.

Lots ranged from holidays to meals – and a cookery course at Tideswell School of Food which ended in a bidding war between the two celebrity guests, each trying to buy it for the other. Martin won that round too, paying £400 to teach his adversary a thing or two about cookery.

He then added another £10,000 to the charity pot by donating a hamper of food, a signed chef’s jacket, a visit to the Saturday Kitchen studio and a personal tour of his car collection – bringing the final total to £40,000.