Jason Atherton is one of Britain's buzziest chefs. After learning his trade under rant-master Gordon Ramsay, he founded Social Company, which oversees a global restaurant empire that includes his flagship, Michelin-starred Pollen Street Social in London, and the Clocktower restaurant, inside New York's Edition hotel. He will soon debut a third restaurant at the new Edition hotel in Shanghai.
No wonder, then, that Atherton logs around 500,000 miles in the air annually. Here are a few of his tricks.
Spice up airplane food
It was [actor] Jude Law who told me to always take Tabasco on a plane. Airplane food is always bland, so it's great to give it kick. But I just try my hardest not to eat on planes. I can normally do it up to about 12 hours. If I go to Australia, I have to eat, obviously, because it's 24 hours on a plane for me. I just eat the protein, drowned in Tabasco, which tastes OK — well, it tastes of Tabasco, to be honest. Or I will take stuff with me: My favorite is a cold protein salad made from cooked salmon, brushed with a little bit of teriyaki sauce and fresh chili over the top, and some blanched vegetables. I make it at home and put it in my backpack — and eating it six or seven hours later, it's great.
Get room service, fast
Every general manager wants to change the world when it comes to room service. And I've said, "Look, if you actually think about it, room service is about getting it to the room as fast as possible." But if the room service guy has 20 orders to run up and down a massive building, he'll tell me it's going to take 40 minutes. Forty minutes too long, right? So if I order room service, I always, always say "I don't want my food in a hot box. Leave it on the table with a cloche on top." Because any food in a hot box, pasta or steak, will stew and go soggy, of course, but they will bring your food first, because it can't be left to sit around.
Eating in Florence
In the summer I always go to Italy and the south of France for my holidays. Inside Florence, there are two places you must eat. There's a tiny little restaurant, right next door to Hermès, called Cantinetta Antinori. It used to be the Antinori family's house, back when the Antonori family were fighting the Medici to be the best bankers in Italy. You're talking thousands of years [ago] but now they have a little restaurant there. The first time I had the tomato pasta there, everything stopped in the room. It was like a movie. No matter how many times I tried to make it myself, I cannot get it as good. I've given up.
And then, just off the beaten track, there's a little sandwich shop called Ino. If you don't get there at 11 a.m., you don't get fed. The queue goes around the block. There are 30 different sandwiches on the menu, but I always have the nduja and Gorgonzola on focaccia. I'm scared [that] if I order anything else, I won't like it as much, so I eat the same sandwich every time I go. I've even said to the owner: "I want to bring you to London. I will set up a restaurant with you in London, we can go 50-50 on it. I'll put the money up, and I want to sell your sandwiches in London." And he's, like: "No, no, no, no. It's OK, it's OK. I am just happy you come as a customer."
Eating in Japan
Visiting Hokkaido for skiing in the winter is stunning. Halfway up the mountain, there are snow monkeys bathing in the hot springs while you ski past them. And it's where Japanese ramen originated — and you can tell why. Nothing beats enjoying a steaming bowl of miso ramen while looking out over the snow, especially with some hot sake.
Anywhere in Japan, there's a rule for picking a good restaurant: The tinier the better, with room for eight or 12 people [maximum]. And because they're so small, you must, must, must book in advance or you won't get in. It's not like in Europe or the States, where they'll find you a space. If there's no space, you're not eating. Try Sobadokoro Raikuchi or Ryunabe, which looks like a dump. You'll get there and go, "My God, this Jason Atherton is off his head." But eat the hot pot there, and it will blow your mind.