From Ballylisk to Beijing as chef James takes the Tea Road for TV

James McIntosh
James McIntosh

TANDRAGEE chef James McIntosh will be taking the ‘Tea Road’ to China when he embarks on a new TV programme that follows the ancient route along which tea was transported over 1,000 years ago.

James (34), who has been based in London for 14 years where he runs his home economics consultancy Whisk, will leave for China in June and will spend a year in the country.

He said, “I will be bringing famous foods from Northern Ireland to China and looking at different foods and cooking styles during the course of the programme.”

The 40-part series, which has been commissioned for China Food TV, will air next May, but unfortunately only on Chinese TV.

During his epic journey, James, whose mother Margaret was a former home economics teacher at Killicomaine Junior High School and still lives in Ballylisk, will travel through China, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, India and Pakistan.

He is particularly looking forward to Bhutan, where only 160,000 tourists are allowed in each year, at the invitation of the king.

He said, “There will be language challenges as well, although I have translators. I do know the word for potatoes, though. It’s maling sue!”

This will be James’s second programme for China Food TV. In 2009, he spent 40 days on a 4,500-mile bus journey across the country following the Silk Road - an ancient trade route through Asia.

He said, “I cooked on top of the Great wall of China, with Buddhist monks and on the middle of the Gobi desert. It was a fantastic experience. We were looking at the foods and types of cooking in different parts of China.

“For instance, we looked at the history of potatoes, The Chinese eat them but not the way we do - their preferred way to serve them is rosti. We also looked at peppercorns and lily roots, which they use in stir frys.”

James made the unforgettable trip along with a 13-man crew and two co-presenters, a German chef who was cooking from a Muslim point of view and a Chinese chef.

The programme won best TV Series in the China TV and Radio Awards in December while the book that accompanies it took Best TV Cookbook in the World at the World Cookbook Awards in Paris in March.

A total of 4.5 million copies, in English and Chinese, have been sold.

James will be starting his forthcoming trip to the East in the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing, where he will represent the UK at the International Culinary Competition. Chefs from countries across the world will be attempting to woo the judges with a ‘healthy and flavoursome dish’ and win the Yi Yin Cup.

Said James, “I will be bringing the bet of Northern Irish cooking to the competition.”

And before embarking on the making of ‘The Tea Road’, he will be using his role as brand ambassador for AGA to launch the iconic cooker in China.