BRIT CHEF JASON ATHERTON TALKS INGREDIENTS, INSPIRATION AND HIS MICHELIN OBSESSION
Tell us about your new book.. Pollen Street is seven years old now and the book is an extension of the restaurant. It’s the first time I’ve written a fine dining book and I wanted it to be something that I would be proud of for the rest of my life. It’s literally me on every page. It’s everything that I am as a chef. What’s your favourite recipe in the book? There isn’t one – that’s like picking your favourite child. But, if you’d asked me which is my favourite chapter, I just love cooking game.
What would be your dream project? Luckily for me, Pollen Street is my dream project, so I already have it. I mean, it would be amazing to have a little house in Tuscany where I could cook for just ten people a night, but that’s just not viable!What’s your favourite part of your job? Just the fact of being a chef, as I get to live my dream every day. Thirty years later I’m still just as in love with food as I was as a young boy. I get to be creative, to work with amazing ingredients and to make people happy through food. Even on my holidays and days off, it’s all about food, as we are always seeking out nice restaurants. I feel so privileged to be in this job.
Any tips on hosting dinner parties? Keep it simple. When people do dinner parties, they tend to go over the top and try to produce very intricate meals. Just respect your ingredients and choose them well. If you’re going to cook for four or five people, just take a beautiful côte de boeuf from your butcher, roast it gorgeously with some beautiful side orders and I guarantee your guests will be impressed. At home, I cook the simplest of foods, just relying on the beauty of the ingredients that I’ve chosen. Pick up a great bottle of wine and enjoy. What is your favourite cuisine to eat at home? I love Japanese cuisine and we go to Japan quite a bit. I love the cleanliness of their food and their absolute obsession with seasonality – it’s a cuisine that delves into micro seasons. Were your parents good at cooking?
My mum was pretty good – she ran a small guest house in Skegness, but my step father was useless. I dreaded when my mum went away once a year because we would have David’s sardines on toast for five nights in a row till Mum came back! We ate very simply – your liver and onions on a Thursday type of thing. You have northern roots, what is your favourite northern dish? I remember my grandma Keigthley teaching me how Yorkshire pudding was made to be eaten as a starter with honey or treacle on top. I tried it once, loved it and thought that it was a cool little northern thing. Are your children into cooking?
Yes – I think it’s my duty to teach them how to cook. It would be pretty shambolic if someone married one of my daughters one day and she couldn’t cook. The children love pasta and I like teaching them how to make pasta and sauces from scratch.What’s your go-to meal?
Pancit noodles – it’s a very old Filipino dish that my mother-in-law taught me to make. On a Sunday night I take whatever is leftover in the fridge, basically a julienne of vegetables, and pancit noodles, which are a bit like Canton noodles, add in a bit of fish sauce, soy sauce, spring onions, ginger, anchovy paste and hard boiled eggs then sprinkle over toasted peanuts and fresh lime. It’s delicious. What’s your most-used cook book?
The River Café – the original one. The one with the chocolate nemesis recipe that doesn’t work. What’s your guilty pleasure? Bacon sandwiches on a Saturday morning – white bread, loads of butter, crispy bacon and brown sauce. Fave foodie website?Elizabeth on Food does amazing reviews of Michelin starred restaurants across the world. She’s not a chef, but she’s certainly an epicurean. She has a great palate and knows a lot about the latest, greatest chefs doing the rounds. Favourite ingredient to use?
I really like working with shellfish. My friend Tom Kitchin gives me tips on where to get the best shellfish from. I also use yuzu quite a bit - everything from making a dressing to infusing it into a macaroonFoodie address book secret?
Marlborough Street Market. I like seeing all the street food and speaking to the stall holders. It’s a very inspiring place to be. Do you collect anything? I collect Michelin memorabilia. It’s in the house, the garage, the restaurants.. My favourite is a radio I’ve got from the 1960s shaped like the Michelin man. What’s your kitchen like at home?
Suprisingly small, but it’s got a lovely seating area and all the appliances I need. My stove is by Marrone. I believe they make the best stoves in the world.Who would be your dream dinner guests?Winston Churchill, for one. Apparently he used to like steak and kidney pudding and spotted dick at Simpson’s in The Strand, so I’d probably make that. Who would you love to cook for you?
César Ramirez, a famous chef in New York. He cooks French and Japanese influenced cuisine.What’s next for you? We’re doing a refurb at Pollen Street, with a new kitchen and a new chef ’s