James May: Top Gear star had to call Sainsbury’s to tell them TV colleague couldn’t work

James May: Top Gear star had to call Sainsbury’s to tell them TV colleague couldn’t work

May 7, 2021

James May on 'losing his temper' while making 'Oh Cook!' show

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James May, 56, has reflected on the time he worked with a “bunch of students” from Brunel University to make his Toy Stories series back in 2009 for the BBC. The former Top Gear presenter admitted he had to call supermarket, Sainbury’s, for one of his young staffers named Tom, as he was unable to make his shift due to filming commitments.

I had to ring up Sainsbury’s

James May

James recalled the hilarious incident while discussing the highs and lows of his TV career with his director and producer Tom Whitter.

The pair sat in a sunny garden setting while reminiscing on their various projects together over the years for a DriveTribe YouTube video.

Speaking on a particular career-high, James admitted making Toy Stories’ Flight Club episode was a special experience.

Tom began: “The Toy Story glider programme started well and went horribly wrong. “

James continued: “One of the people we had working with us, who was another Tom, and he was only about 18 at the time, and he was the guy who went up in the helicopter to track the glider.

“It was a Saturday when the day was like this, and we realised we could have another go at it. 

“He had a job at Sainsbury’s to help make ends meet, and to pay various expenses for his education. 

“I had to ring up Sainsbury’s and say, ‘You can’t have Tom today. We need him to sit in the helicopter’.”

In the Flight Club episode filmed nine years ago, James was on a new challenge involving model kits – to fly a life-size model of the Slingsby Swallow between two points of a set distance. 

Alongside a team of engineering students from Brunel University, led by engineer Simeon Oakley, the challenge brought forth several problems, particularly when their initially intended route couldn’t be used because of issues from air traffic controllers. 

Forced to send the glider across the Bristol Channel, further issues from the weather led James to guide the glider to a safe landing on the island of Lundy. 

Despite the risks, The Grand Tour star managed to successfully complete the challenge, reaching the glider’s destination within an hour of its launch.

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The focus of the documentary was on six notable toys during the original series of episodes, including their history, each of which was chosen to see if they could possibly be capable of achieving a remarkable goal in real life on a grand scale. 

The series ended in 2014 after airing four special episodes but has clearly left a lasting impression on the TV host.

Since then, James set up a YouTube channel and filmed himself cooking under the guise of “JM’s Unemployment Tube” following his exit from Top Gear in 2016.

He told Radio Times: “I was essentially unemployed, and a bit bored.”

The star quickly built up a strong viewership as he attempted to make simple dishes such as shepherd’s pie, poached eggs on toast, and a carbonara.

He later began to produce far more produced and polished videos for FoodTribe before Amazon stepped in and offered him his own series, Oh Cook.

The show transports viewers to the Far East, the Med, and the local pub all from the comfort of a home economist’s kitchen.

James then makes the delicious recipes himself without the usual “format trickery” used in cooking shows.

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