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Chef Jason Atherton Reveals What He Cooks for His Wife and His Secret Way to Improve Plane Food

The London-based chef has a few tricks up his sleeve.

Chef and restaurateur Jason Atherton Dylan Thomas

Jason Atherton has some résumé. With 16 restaurants on three continents and in seven cities, not to mention five cookbooks and two TV shows, the London-based chef presides over a veritable (and delicious) empire. But he’s not some culinary savant who only knows his way around a kitchen: The Michelin star is quite the tastemaker outside of his business as well, with passions that range from suits and watches to autos and art. For a lesson in everything from how to make the perfect Negroni to the one thing you should always bring on a plane, read on.

Do you have a uniform for certain occasions?

Obviously, my chef whites are number one, and I’m in them a lot, but for special occasions it’ll be a timeless, tailored Thom Sweeney suit and shoes from Gaziano & Girling on Savile Row.

Who is your dealer, and what do they source for you?

Simon Oldfield. He sources art for me and I really trust his taste. I take art very seriously in my restaurants. I believe it adds so much personality, and customers always notice when we have new pieces up. We’ve just launched No. 5 Social and have worked with an artist called Kay Harwood, who has also provided paintings for my restaurant Social Eating House. Her work is beautiful.

What’s the most recent thing you’ve added to your collection?

I’ve just added Nathan Outlaw’s latest book, Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, to my cookbook collection. I have hundreds—lots at home and another two bookshelves in my office so they can be used for inspiration. Marco Pierre White’s first memoir, White Heat, is one that’s very important to me. It was groundbreaking at the time and influenced me a lot as a young chef.

What do you most crave at the end of the day?

A home-cooked meal, even if it’s just a guilty pleasure like beans on toast.

What’s your favorite cocktail, and how do you make it?

A classic Negroni—luckily nice and easy to make, just equal measures of gin, Campari and sweet red vermouth.

What’s the most impressive dish you cook?

One of my flagship restaurant Pollen Street Social’s signature dishes, the pistachio soufflé, always impresses. The recipe is in Pollen Street cookbook, which I’m really proud of. At home, however, my wife and girls are most impressed with my adobo. My wife is Filipino, so we like to re-create the dishes that she grew up eating.

What is your exercise routine, and how often do you do it?

I go to the gym every day, box three times a week and run around Wandsworth Common on the weekends. And I often use my home gym to wind down before going to bed.

Are you wearing a watch?

Yes, I am wearing an Audemars Piguet from their Royal Oak collection. I’m an ambassador for them, so I have a few of their watches. I’m very lucky, as I really love them and always have one on.

What is the car you are most attached to?

Rolls-Royce, even though I don’t actually own one. They are classic and timeless. But for now, anyway, I drive a BMW M7.

How much do you trust your gut instinct?

One hundred ten percent. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t.

What apps do you use the most?

Netflix, when I’m travelling.

First thing you do in the morning?

Make breakfast for my daughters then take them to school.

What advice do you wish you’d followed?

Try not to say yes to everything, it’s impossible to please everyone.

What do you do that’s still analog?

Reading. I much prefer a real book or magazine than reading everything on a Kindle or tablet.

Who is your guru?

Pierre Koffman, Alain Ducasse, my mum—I’ve learned a lot from all of them.

What’s your most annoying quality?

I am a perfectionist so will notice the very smallest thing being out of place, or unclean. I like to think of it as a positive quality though.

What does success look like to you?

A customer leaving one of my restaurants having had a memorable, special experience that they won’t forget.

Do you know how many air miles you have?

A lot. I have international restaurants in six different cities across the world, which I travel to regularly, so I’ve clocked up quite a few.

Last piece of advice you gave?

Surrounding yourself with passionate and committed people will help you succeed.

And the last advice you were given?

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

What is your email etiquette?

I’m always emailing on the go so I mainly keep it short and to the point.

Wine of choice?

My wife Irha and I love Super Tuscan by Ornellia, and Sassicaia.

Last boxset or Netflix binge?

Game of Thrones—I’m obsessed!

Movies or theatre?

I love the theatre. When we have the time, we love to go as a family to the latest West End show.

When was the last time you completely unplugged?

On my recent ski holiday with my family to Megève. There’s no reception at the top of a mountain!

If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?

Amanpulo, a private Palawan island in the Philippines. It has one of the best beaches in the world.

What’s always in your hand luggage?

I’m not a fan of plane food, so I carry a little bottle of Tabasco sauce on board to improve it slightly.

What do you most regret?

I don’t believe in regrets. Everything is a lesson.

What’s worth paying for?

Quality ingredients.

Do you still write letters?

No, but I am constantly sketching food and new ideas, so I will always have my Moleskine notebook with me.

Bowie or Dylan?

Bowie.

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