Celebrity Trav­eller

Chef, au­thor and broad­caster, Peta Mathias refers to her­self as a “Gas­trono­mad”. Peta now builds on her culi­nary travel ex­pe­ri­ences host­ing tours in the south of France, Morocco, Spain, Italy and In­dia. www.peta­math­ias.com

Let's Travel - - CONTENTS - Name: Peta Mathias

How old were you when you got your first pass­port, and where did you travel to in or­der to “break it in”?

It must have been when I em­i­grated to Canada in 1974 so I would have been about 24. In ret­ro­spect, I don’t know why I did some­thing so dras­tic as em­i­grat­ing when I could have just ap­plied for a work per­mit, but that’s what I did. I re­ally wanted to get out of New Zealand and had no in­ten­tion of com­ing back. I en­tered Canada on a one-way ticket, stayed there for 6 years and even got a Cana­dian pass­port.

How many coun­tries have you trav­elled to?

No idea… a lot. I’ve been trav­el­ling since I was ten. My first trip was to Syd­ney to visit my mother’s Aus­tralian rel­a­tives. I vom­ited all the way and had such swollen legs that I was taken off the plane in a wheel­chair. In spite of that, I was not put off trav­el­ling which, un­til only ten years ago, has al­ways been un­com­fort­able for me.

My favourite off­shore des­ti­na­tion is …

Paris, be­cause my ten years there in the 80’s trans­formed my life. I be­came a chef at the age of 30 and there was no look­ing back. The French still have it in terms of gas­tron­omy - they just un­der­stand how to live. Paris is a very beau­ti­ful, ro­man­tic city, full of good food and ex­cit­ing things to do.

My favourite lo­cal des­ti­na­tion is …

Right where I live - Auck­land. The weather is warm, even if it rains too much; the restau­rant scene continues to ex­plode; it’s a pos­i­tive, pretty port city that is not only good look­ing but buzzing with en­ergy and in­no­va­tive ideas. If you want to get some­thing done well, get it done in Auck­land, whether it be fash­ion, de­sign or food.

My favourite din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is …

Arzak Restau­rant in San Se­bas­tian in the Basque Coun­try, Spain. I host culi­nary tours all over the world and would say my tour to the Basque Coun­try has the best cui­sine of all my des­ti­na­tions. Juan-Marie Arzak was one of the prin­ci­ple ini­tia­tors of molec­u­lar cui­sine in the world and his daugh­ter Elena Arzak now car­ries it on, work­ing be­side him. The food is stu­pen­dous and the restau­rant al­most like a bistro with its lack of pre­ten­sion. Think fish served on an iPad show­ing a video of waves crash­ing and a dessert with smoke pour­ing out of it.

My favourite kind of hol­i­day is …

I don’t take hol­i­days be­cause I travel so much with my culi­nary tours - when you go to Morocco, France, Spain, Italy and In­dia ev­ery year you are al­ready very lucky. In gen­eral my favourite vis­its would in­clude fash­ion, food, mu­sic and shop­ping.

What’s the one thing you can’t/won’t travel with­out?

Com­fort­able shoes - Ziera are the best. They are now mak­ing very stylish shoes that are good for trav­el­ling, walk­ing and stand­ing in all day.

Best pack­ing tip …

Pack your suit­case, take half the things out, close and lock it, go to the air­port. You don’t need half the stuff you think you need and you al­ways buy more things when you get to your des­ti­na­tion.

Best travel tip …

Be pre­pared. Re­mem­ber there are no porters - no-one will help you when trav­el­ling. Have one light suit­case and one carry on bag - all on wheels. The sec­ond es­sen­tial is to leave all your pre­con­cep­tions be­hind and start eat­ing the food of your new coun­try the minute you get there - it is the best and fastest way to ac­cess a cul­ture.

Do you dress com­fort­ably or stylishly for long-haul trips?

Both - you don’t need to let your stan­dards go just be­cause you are squashed into a big box for 12 hours. I usu­ally wear pants and a kurta (In­dian tu­nic), a shawl and open shoes in case the feet swell.

If WE were pay­ing, tell us about your per­fect hol­i­day:

I would like you to send me, first class, to a lux­ury re­sort some­where, any­where where there is no pos­si­bil­ity of elec­tronic com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Ev­ery­one else at the re­sort would be re­ally in­ter­est­ing, the food would be stu­pen­dous and I could have break­fast at 6 in the evening if I felt like it.

Best travel mem­ory …

Be­ing in­vited to write a story on Puglia in the heel of Italy. I knew noth­ing about it and found my­self in an olive grove with 3,000-year-old trees, all gnarled and twisted and still pro­duc­ing olives and oil. I thought I might cry. I knew they were that old be­cause they had satel­lite tags on them.

Any­thing “hi­lar­i­ous” ever hap­pened to you while trav­el­ing?

So many things have hap­pened, it would be hard to choose. One that comes to mind is the time I gave a vil­lage woman in Ra­jasthan a laven­der heart my sis­ter had made. The next day I saw her walk­ing along the road show­ing it to any­one who would look. I also gave her a shock­ing pink apron from my culi­nary tour and found her grand­son wear­ing it and giv­ing a cook­ing les­son in Hindi to his lit­tle friends.

Where to next?

My next trip is to Mar­rakech for my culi­nary tour at the end of May - a land where time passes on slip­pered feet, pomegranates fall into your hands and spices fol­low you around the souk. This year I have added a desert trip to the tour.

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