JASON ATHERTON MY LIFE IN TRAVEL
The Michelin-starred chef reveals all about his travels to Dubai, in-flight Tabasco, and his dream of owning a house in Tuscany
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.
I ADMIRE SOFT
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