Travel Q&A: Jason Atherton
With 15 restaurants in London, New York, Asia, Australia and Dubai, the Michelin-starred chef is always on the moveRobert Chilton August 21, 2017
What’s your ideal family holiday?
Our family ritual is skiing in Megève in the French Alps every February when the kids break up from school. It’s such a wonderful quaint little French town. We stay at a hotel called Flocons de Sel, which has a three Michelin starred restaurant.
Are you a skier or a boarder?
I'm not cool enough to board so I ski. Skiing is a great family holiday because it’s something we can all do together. We wake up excited, have breakfast, ski, and at 5pm we’re all fast asleep.
What city do you love?
I like Sydney; people there value their family time. The only problem is that it's so far away from everything. If I was single I’d live in New York. The energy is bizarre; the minute you get off the plane you feel it.
Do you have a good New York restaurant tip for us?
Pasquale Jones in Little Italy. It’s a small place run by a chef and a sommelier; inexpensive and beautifully designed. They make some of the best pizza you’ll ever eat in your life. To go to the bathroom you have to go behind two pizza ovens, through the kitchen where the guys are banging out the pizza dough, and down some rickety stairs.
Where’s good for street food?
In New York, I go under Brooklyn Bridge on Saturdays for the amazing Mexican food trucks. Do you like beaches? Last summer we went to a friend's villa in Ibiza. I wasn't interested in the night life so we hired a boat and went to Formentera, a little island with white sands just off Ibiza and ate at a fantastic fish restaurant right on the beach – stunning.
What are your favourite landmarks?
I'll never forget the first time I went to New York, when I was opening Maze for Gordon Ramsay in 2005. I flew into JFK and got a taxi through Queens to Manhattan and the skyline took my breath away. I like the Sydney Opera House too – it's not as big as you think it but the moment I saw it, I just thought, ‘I'm in Australia!’
What hotel wowed you?
My number one is Hotel Splendido in Portofino. I went there about three years ago after reading so much about it. My business was doing well so we treated ourselves to a stay there. But it's so expensive we couldn't afford to stay there the whole time, only a few days.
Did it meet your hopes?
It was pretty incredible. It's not especially gorgeous, but it has incredible charisma. Cary Grant stayed there, all the greats have stayed there. The bartender has been there since time began. We sat on a beautiful verandah watching the boats in the bay – very romantic. We never left for three days!
How are your packing skills?
Very good, very neat. I have a really durable Louis Vuitton suit carrier bag and I can pack fast because I have a checklist in my head. I line up all my toiletries. Underwear and socks go in first. Then chef’s jacket, trousers and shoes. And swimwear always at the bottom.
What do you do on a plane?
I drink water and moisturise! The Tom Ford moisturiser is very good. I eat very little. Plane food is garbage. Qantas is the only time I've thought plane food was alright.
Where are you travelling next?
I’m doing a food event in France with [chef] Heston Blumenthal. Heston's mental. He's a ping pong addict. He has a coach who is coming with us on the trip and he's shipping a ping pong table to the hotel. I've heard he's incredible at table tennis.