"As far as I know, I've never given anyone food poisoning," says James May, hesitantly.

"Repulsed? Possibly. Disappointed? Definitely. But not actually, technically ill."

It is a reassuring prospect given the Grand Tour presenter's latest venture into the world of home economics.

Swapping car grilles for kitchen grills as part of new Amazon Prime series James May: Oh Cook! - a play on his now famous 'oh cock!' catchphrase - the show sees May, 57, set out on a culinary journey of grand proportions.

There is one small catch, however, in that May, by his own admittance, cannot cook.

"I've never actually had any cooking lessons of any sort, ever," declares May, almost triumphantly.

"I'd never learned to cook at home, I didn't do cooking at school, I can't remember cooking when I was a student, I think we just had toast.

"And for a lot of my adult life I didn't really do any cooking.

"I learned to make shepherd's pie and cheesy pasta and the rest of the time it was takeaways, eating out, cafes - probably quite unhealthy, in many ways."

It goes without saying that commissioning a cooking show hosted by an automotive journalist without a single culinary credential sounds like a disaster waiting to happen - and May seems to agree.

"Someone's at least been daft enough to put it on the telly," he says.

"It wasn't entirely without precedent but I wouldn't be your first choice if you suddenly thought as a TV executive 'I know, we'll do a beginners' cooking show and we'll get James May to do it'."

Aided by domestic economist Nicky, May is charged with learning fundamental knife skills and simple cooking hacks capable of transforming even the most basic bowl of pasta.

Each thematic episode has the presenter tackling a range of dishes, taking viewers on a gastronomic tour that encompasses the local pub alongside the exotic delights of Asian-fusion cuisine.

"It's posh YouTube in a way," May explains.

"There's no trickery, I am just standing in the kitchen cooking stuff.

"The weird thing about making food on the TV - I suppose it's also true of driving cars on TV - but the two things that are so vital to your appreciation of food are smelling it and tasting it, and none of those come across on television.

"Which is maybe why a lot of food programmes on TV have ended up producing very artistically presented food, photographed and filmed in a very clever-dick way, with shallow depth of field, with strange angles and clever lighting and steam coming off - because you have to make up for the two things you can't do which are smell it and touch it."

He adds: "Television has got it completely wrong and cooking on television ought to be a waste of time but it's becoming ever more popular.

"Five years ago people were saying 'oh, we can't have another cooking show, that's been exhausted' but it turns out it hasn't, because even I can do one."

With filming for the series coinciding with creation of May's cookbook, Oh Cook! 60 Easy Recipes That Any Idiot Can Make, the presence of publishers and TV executives on set was an added pressure for The Grand Tour presenter, affectionately dubbed Captain Slow.

"They are expecting me to be good at something I've not really done before, which is why I fall out with them a bit," May says.

"They're telling me how to do it and then they start telling me how to say it and how to present it and I want to go 'look, f*** off, that's the bit I can do'.

"I can tolerate a certain amount of you telling me how to cook but don't start telling me how to enthuse about it because I ... I got quite cross with them - it was the only time on TV I've ever got cross with the crew - but they are bloody annoying, especially because they can all cook."

Having written and presented shows including James May's Big Trouble In Model Britain and James May: The Reassembler in recent years, it is safe to deduce the presenter has a penchant for detail.

It is a precision-oriented approach that traditionally lends itself well to the kitchen but May appears far more concerned with the gadgets involved than accurately measuring out ingredients.

"You're being quite polite," May says.

"You're saying that something about rebuilding lawnmowers is quite, sort of, anal. I quite like that sort of thing, I quite like precision and doing things right.

"I do get a strange pleasure from things like getting my knives sharp and then very accurately cutting some vegetables and then very gradually peeling the skin off the outside of the clove of garlic - it's such a fantastic sensation.

"I love all that - it's slightly surgical and unnecessarily perverse."

He adds: "I've always argued - and I argue in the book - that cooking isn't engineering so exact weights and measures aren't that critical.

"If you get them roughly right, you can guess a lot of them and you will come out with something edible."

Now, given the nature of the show and with the global pandemic restricting many to the confines of their homes, the timing could not be better to launch the new series.

"Quite coincidentally, we produced something that was very relevant to lockdown, i.e. cooking," May says.

"It was a very happy coincidence - and almost looks as if we knew lockdown was going to happen but obviously we didn't ... I can't pretend we planned it."

James May: Oh Cook! launches on Amazon Prime Video on Friday November 13. Oh Cook! 60 Easy Recipes that Any Idiot Can Make is out now.