The Miche­lin-starred chef re­veals all about his trav­els to Dubai, in-flight Tabasco, and his dream of own­ing a house in Tus­cany

The Daily Telegraph - Travel - - FRONT PAGE - In­ter­view by Lisa Pollen Pollen Street

THIS IS NOT NOR­MAL, I tell my kids. Our fam­ily hol­i­days al­ways re­volve around eat­ing. We ski in Hokkaido and it’s such a priv­i­lege to spot snow mon­keys bathing in hot springs, be­fore stop­ping for a bowl of steam­ing ra­men and some hot sake. My seven-year-old daugh­ter eats sea urchins straight from the shell when we ski in Ja­pan. How could she not be ad­ven­tur­ous with food?

I FLY AT LEAST ONCE A MONTH. One minute it’s Qatar, where I’m about to open a restau­rant, the next Shang­hai to check on my new out­let there. My fam­ily re­cently joined me in New York and we jumped on the Am­trak to Wash­ing­ton DC. Since the Miche­lin guide launched there it has be­come an un­likely foodie hub.

EV­ERY­ONE THINKS I’M STRANGE but I take a bot­tle of Tabasco to give in-flight food a kick; it’s fresh and it tastes good. Or I bring my own food in a Tup­per­ware box. Emi­rates is my go-to air­line as I’m al­ways in that re­gion, but in Europe you can’t beat Bri­tish Air­ways. When they get it right, BA is the best and fly­ing with them is a great ex­pe­ri­ence. The first thing I do on ar­rival at my ho­tel is hit the gym; it helps me ac­cli­ma­tise.

I SWORE I’D NEVER FLY WITH AMER­I­CAN AIR­LINES EVER AGAIN. Once, as an an­niver­sary treat for my wife, I booked seats in first class – but they screwed up the book­ing and I ended up on my own in econ­omy while she was up front.

I DREAM OF OWN­ING A HOME IN TUS­CANY. The weather is great, the food is fab­u­lous and the peo­ple are won­der­ful. We usu­ally start at Ho­tel Splen­dido in Portofino, drive to Lake Como and stay at the Villa d’Este, then on to the Four Sea­sons in Mi­lan or the Villa Cora in Florence.


LUX­URY and the de­tail that makes a ho­tel spe­cial. Ho­tel Splen­dido is ef­fort­lessly lux­u­ri­ous, the beds are to die for and the ser­vice is ex­em­plary. There’s a pizza restau­rant by the pool and a great bar for ne­gro­nis and Aperol spritz. What’s not to love? One&Only Reethi Rah in the Mal­dives was also stun­ning – but it rained all week!

IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT THE FOOD, I’m also mad on menswear. Florence has fab­u­lous tai­lors and shoe shops, but my favourite pur­chase was a set of shim­mery fish-shaped plates from an an­tique shop. I was go­ing to get them copied for the restau­rant to serve canapés on, but they’re so beau­ti­ful I kept them for my­self.

THEY TOOK OUR PHONES AWAY AT CHECK-IN when my wife and I stayed at the Post Ranch Inn in Cal­i­for­nia where there’s no con­tact with the out­side world. I of­ten send an email to my staff be­fore I go, say­ing please don’t bother me. They al­ways do, so the last time I fu­ri­ously threw my phone down on the bed and then locked it away in the safe.

MY HOPES WERE DASHED in the south of France. I was look­ing for­ward to lunch at La Colombe d’Or in St Paul de Vence, a favourite haunt of the late Michael Win­ner, but, while the set­ting was beau­ti­ful, my chicken with morels was a dis­as­ter. When I ran Maze for Gor­don [Ram­say], Michael called me one Sun­day and or­dered me to cook for him an hour later. I had to can­cel my whole day.

EV­ERY­ONE KNOWS THE LE­GEND OF STU­DIO 54 and luck­ily for me, the man be­hind the New York night­club is my busi­ness partner. Ian Schrager is a fa­ther fig­ure to me. As well as re­gal­ing me with sto­ries about the Rolling Stones and the Bea­tles, he’s al­ways of­fered sup­port and ad­vice.

I’M TER­RI­FIED OF SKY­DIV­ING, but I have slept in a desert in a Be­douin tent. When I opened my restau­rant in Dubai, I wanted a real lo­cal ex­pe­ri­ence, so we went into the mid­dle of nowhere and cooked food un­der the earth. Peo­ple write off Dubai but I like its am­bi­tion, how safe it feels and the guar­an­teed sun­shine


I wear my stylish Brunello Cucinelli es­padrilles on the plane to avoid walk­ing bare­foot. £85; match­es­fash­ion.com in win­ter. My favourite restau­rant is La Pe­tite Mai­son. It has a fan­tas­tic at­mos­phere and smells great.

ONE MEAL CHANGED HOW I FELT ABOUT FOOD – in San Fran­cisco, chef Joshua Skenes wowed me with his caviar, wrapped in sea­weed and baked over coal at Sai­son. I’d never eaten warm caviar be­fore and it had a very dif­fer­ent tex­ture and taste.

TOKYO IS A FOOD LOVER’S PAR­ADISE and din­ing at Sushi Saito is a must. So is Jiro Ono’s food at his three-Miche­lin-star restau­rant Sukiyabashi Jiro – and he’s past 90 now. Tokyo is also home to the world’s best food mar­ket, Tsuk­iji, where I’ve eaten flip­per-sized surf clams straight from the shell.

The first thing I do on ar­rival at my ho­tel is hit the gym; it helps me ac­cli­ma­tise

THE MOST UN­DER­RATED PLACE is my wife’s “home­town” is­land, Cebu in the Philip­pines. I’ve been go­ing for 15 years and it’s still not on any­one’s radar. It’s a trop­i­cal par­adise where you can swim with whales and the ho­tels are great and cheap.

by Ja­son Atherton (Ab­so­lute Press, £50) is out now, with pho­tog­ra­phy by John Carey

ON THE MENU‘Un­der­rated’ Cebu, left; Hokkaido in Ja­pan, right; and Portofino, Italy

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