James began cooking aged 15, working in the restaurant in his local village and had work experience at the Waterside Inn in Bray and La Tante Claire with Pierre Koffmann.
In 1994, he started at the Greenhouse with Gary Rhodes. Later he worked with chef Rob Aitkens at Lake Placid Lodge in New York State, one of the Roux brothers consultancies.
After a brief spell at the Oxo Tower in London, James was offered a junior sous chef position at Alastair Little’s Frith Street restaurant in Soho, where he worked for four years working his way to head chef. In 2000, he moved to Tom Conran’s The Cow, where he stayed as head chef for four years before opening The Fox & Hounds.