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

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

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

HR Business Partner (Maternity Cover 12 Months)

£30000 - £34000 Per Annum 25 days holiday, Private healthcare: Clearwater Peop...

Project Manager (Procurement & Human Resources)

Unpaid: Cancer Research UK: If you’re a professional in project management, lo...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star