How We Met: Mark Sargeant & Al Murray

'There are things I'm happier talking about with him than with mates I've had since I was 11'


Al Murray, 42, is a stand-up comedian best known for his loudmouth alter ego The Pub Landlord. Out of character, he has also produced his own sketch show, 'Al Murray's Multiple Personality Disorder', and fronted a number of acclaimed documentaries, including the recent 'Al Murray's German Adventure' for BBC4. He lives in west London

I met Mark on the reality TV show Hell's Kitchen in 2004, where he was my team leader. I was approached to do it as Harry Hill had said no, I think. My manager thought it would be a good opportunity to get tables in [the host] Gordon Ramsay's restaurants, and I thought I might learn how to cook. Before the show started, they put us through catering college for a couple of days: we had a book of recipes to learn, and on the second night we had to do a service. I remember Gordon shouting, "Are you ready with that coq au vin?" and I said, "Yeah, yeah, course I am," and then Mark said, "You need to be careful, mate!"

From there, we just got on really well. It was a really intense experience – the producers want personalities to clash and moments of collision, but I just hung on to Sarge and he kept me sane. Where Gordon was very alpha-male, Mark had a completely different energy: open to being talked to and infinitely patient. Our team fell apart, and there was a point where it was really awful and I wrote him a letter to say thanks for being a decent guy in the middle of it. It was like we went through this terrible thing together and formed an unbreakable bond [as a result].

What I find compelling about Mark is that he's an expert: we live in an age with this "everyone can have a go" philosophy, but he really knows what he's doing. Some of the best nights out I've ever had were at the chef's table at Claridge's, when Mark was running it. It was just an incredible experience, like theatre.

We like to go out for a drink and a gossip, and I've had him round my house; he's ready-steady-cooked my fridge, so he's definitely useful. Recently, I've been away a lot touring, and he's been busy setting up his new restaurant, but we continue our relationship through texting and Twitter banter. We talk about personal things as well, and he's given me good advice; we both went through divorces at the same time and it was a help to "compare notes".

He's a bit of a charmer, too: at a [fancy-dress] party at my house, he came dressed as a cad and danced with everyone; he's very fleet of foot. On Monday morning, all my friends were like, "Who the hell was that, stealing away my wife?"



Mark Sargeant, 37, is former head chef of Gordon Ramsay's then-Michelin-starred restaurant at Claridge's in London. Having worked for the Ramsay Group for 13 years, he resigned last year and is preparing to open his own restaurant in Folkestone next May. He has appeared on numerous TV programmes including 'Hell's Kitchen' and 'The Great British Menu'. He lives in London

I didn't know that much about Al before Hell's Kitchen. Early in my career, all I did was work and a whole period passed me by culturally. Lots of people had ulterior motives for being on the show. But there was Al just standing there, saying, "Show me how to cook," which was brilliant.

The show was one of the hardest things I've had to do – I had a month without a day off, with 18-hour days the whole way through – and I think I would have gone mad without Al there. We just bounced off each other really well, and there was lots of odd banter: he called me Frodo Baggins because he's tall and I'm short and he gave me a Gollum toy on the last day with this letter saying, "Dear Frodo... blah blah blah... lots of love, Legolas."

I used to live over the road from Al in Chiswick, and we'd go for pints and meals, but I moved about two years ago, and we're both very busy, so we don't get to see each other that often. But we have a very strong relationship from afar. He's definitely a confidant, and we've both been through reasonably tough times recently, so there's an understanding between us that means there are things I'd feel happier talking about with him than with mates I've known since I was 11.

Our backgrounds are quite different – Al had a silver spoon, whereas I had more of a rusty one. But personality-wise, there are a lot of similarities between us: we're both very silly and cheeky and we both like comic-book-style films and the same TV series. The great thing about Al is that he's not someone who sits and there and reels off joke after joke. He makes me laugh, but in a more conversational, off-the-cuff way.

One of my favourite memories of our friendship is from Gordon's 40th birthday. I had asked Al if he could do something on stage, and he came on and took the mickey out of everyone, then I came out wearing the Gordon mask from [Channel 4 comedy show] Bo' Selecta!. It was just really funny.

Would I try comedy now he's tried cheffing? I love a challenge, and if someone asked me to do a Faking It-style programme following Al around and trying to be a stand-up, I'd go for it. It will never happen, but it would be brilliant.



Al Murray's 'The Pub Landlord's Great British Pub Quiz Book' and 'Barrel of Fun Live' DVDs are available now ( thepublandlord.com). Mark Sargeant's book 'My Kind of Cooking' will be out next September

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Surrey County Council: Senior Project Officer (Fixed Term to Feb 2019)

£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn