James was born in Dorchester on the south coast and brought up in Cambridge. He started his first job in a kitchen at the age of fifteen as a kitchen porter, by chance this was Midsummer House restaurant, one of the best restaurants in the UK. Head Chef Hans Schweitzer soon noted his enthusiasm and work ethic and gave him the chance to join the kitchen team where he trained for three years.
In 1995 James moved to London and carried on his training in Michelin starred restaurants with leading chefs such as Gordon Ramsay (Aubergine), Stefano Cavallini (The Halkin), Chris Galvin (The Orrery) and Jeff Galvin (The Greenhouse).
At the age of 23, James moved to Cannes, France to work for Richard Neat, the only English man in France to hold a Michelin star.
Returning to London three years later he accepted the post of Sous Chef at Aurora a stunning fine dining restaurant under the direction of his friend Warren Geraghty.
However James harboured a burning desire to go back to France and work in a 3 Michelin star restaurant. He wrote a letter to every 3* in France and received just three replies, two said no and one invited him over for a trial shift.
In 2004 James started work at the world famous, 3 Michelin star restaurant Michel Bras in Laguiole. ‘Working for Michel Bras and his family was the most fabulous experience. He has achieved more than most chefs dream of and remains one of the hardest working, humble and respectful people you could ever hope to meet.’
The opportunity of a lifetime came in 2006 when Michel Bras asked James if he would move to Japan as Head Chef and Director of his only other restaurant situated within The Windsor Hotel. As first head chef posts come this was an offer second to none. A two year posting to Japan followed which was a highly rewarding experience.
In 2009 James accepted a consulting contract for Istanbul Doors restaurant group in Istanbul, Turkey. He spent five months advising them on various restaurant strategies for their group and at the same time ran one of their fine dining restaurants for the duration of the busy summer season.
On completion of that contract he was approached by the regional Vice President of the 5 star Swissotel The Bosphorus who offered him the post of Head Chef in their newly refurbished fine dining restaurant Gaja. He held this post for two years gaining numerous accolades from local and international food critics.
James and his wife Christine Vayssade have now achieved their dream of returning to the UK and opening their own restaurant.