James Martin mocked for ‘using too much butter’ by celeb chef and co-star Francesco Mazzei

Italian chef hits out at James Martin 'mafia' jibe

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Francesco Mazzei has been a regular on James Martin’s Saturday Morning show for the past 12 years, and both have a passion for over-using butter and extra virgin olive oil. However, Mazzei has now designed a menu without relying on his beloved butter and cheese, to pair with a new non-alcoholic beer. He has now admitted that, while it was challenging to create, the results were “impressive”.

We can do things without butter! Knowledge for these things is in our blood!

Francesco Mazzei

“[I] always have fun jokes with James about using too much butter, using too much olive oil,” Francesco joked to Express.co.uk.

The chef, whose London restaurants include Sartoria and Radici, added: “It’s fun because we’re friends.”

In fact, having grown up in a poverty-stricken neighbourhood in the Southern Italian region of Calabria, he has a special fondness for so-called unhealthy sweet treats, which formed his childhood appetite.

“When I was a little kid, I didn’t come from a lot of money,” he confessed.

“We just had enough money to go to school, to get dressed and that was it.

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“Our afternoon snack – guess what it was? Sugar with extra virgin olive oil on top. I’m not joking – that’s what it was.

“If you try that with kids now, they will not talk to you for the rest of the day!”

However, Francesco confides that James is “a big fan” of the ingredients, even if some might describe them as unhealthy.

“I was [also] the first one to bring nduja to this country from Calabria and James Martin gave me the chance to showcase that on the show,” he explained of the spicy sausage snack, for which he is now renowned.

“The fact that I can showcase some of my south Italian ingredients on the show, and make Calabria known as a region where the good food is, has been amazing.”

Now, to celebrate the launch of a new alcohol-free beer, Peroni Nastro Azzurro 0.0%, Francesco has turned his back on the sweet ingredients that he and James hold so dear and has created a menu to match the drink.

Last night he launched a new pop-up restaurant for 24 hours only in Islington, North London, which was designed like a traditional Italian trattoria, but with a major difference – the concept was “zero”.

He rustled up a completely vegan menu with “zero meat and zero fish”, including a pizza base with garlic and truffle, plus rocket and tomatoes as accompaniments.

“In our restaurants 10 years ago, I never had a lot of requests for vegan dishes, but now there are lots of requests for it,” he mused.


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“Also, you wouldn’t believe how many requests I get for non-alcoholic drinks [these days] and I’m prepared now!”

Francesco promises there is “very, very little difference” in taste between the 0.0 per cent beer and the real deal.

Though he admits that at first he “wasn’t keen”, he soon warmed to the concept after tasting it.

“There’s a health element to it in that you can drink four or five and you don’t feel dizzy – and you can have lots of food and not feel full, if you don’t add meat and fish into it!” he reasoned.

James Martin hasn’t yet given his verdict on a “zero butter” menu, but suffice to say it isn’t the type of dish Francesco normally creates on his show.

On the last occasion they cooked together, Francesco recalled that he “just turned up with an armful of Grana Padano cheese and we made feta cheese pasta with lots and lots and lots of truffle”.

Although he admitted it was “challenging” to create a menu without the likes of cheese on this occasion, he breezily insisted: “We can do stuff without cheese, we can do things without butter! Knowledge for these things is in our blood.”

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