My Life In Travel: John Torode, chef
'I take shorts and thongs - the ones that go between your toes!'
Saturday 25 October 2008
First holiday memory?
Growing up in Australia, we didn't really go on holiday. We lived beside the beach, so when I walked out of the back gate I was on the sand. We broke up for the summer at the start of December and didn't go back until March, so I spent three months on the beach. However, for my 21st birthday present, I went to Bali by myself. I met loads of people and had a really great time, as any 21-year-old Australian boy would do.
As an Aussie, my favourite holidays are skiing ones. I had a great holiday with my wife Jessica in Courchevel. We skied all day, drank lots of lovely wine and ate some really nice food. It was a real laugh.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
My two elder children live in Cornwall, so I've discovered that part of the country. Beaches are really important to me, and I love Sennen Cove and Perranporth Beach. The Pembrokeshire coast is also pretty stunning.
What have you learnt from your travels?
Pack as little as possible and buy it there if I need it. These days, I don't even pack a toothbrush. If I'm going somewhere hot, I take some shorts and a pair of thongs – the ones that go between your toes!
Ideal travelling companion?
My kids. They open your eyes to so much more and make you realise how wonderful the world is.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
I'm a culture person when I'm working, so my downtime is beach time: sand, surf and a barbecue.
Greatest travel luxury?
Flying business class – I've only recently been able to afford it.
With four children? I try to pick up a book, but get distracted easily. If I do read something, it'll be about travel or other parts of the world.
Where has seduced you?
Thailand. Food is very important to me and the Thai people have an extraordinary lifestyle. They rarely use refrigeration, so their food is fresh and delicious. They are an extraordinary, gentle people who live in an amazing place. I am a bit of an urbanite, so I particularly love the buzz of Bangkok. Going to the food market beside the river at 5am is the joy of joys. I wander around looking at what's going on, eating little satays – it's the best way to start the day.
Better to travel or to arrive?
I love flying: the idea of my phone not being able to ring, having my own TV set that my children can't change, someone bringing me a drink, and eating when I want to.
Worst travel experience?
When Jess and I went on our honeymoon with our two children to Mauritius, we were downgraded on the flight because there weren't enough seats. We ended up doing a 12-hour flight in fairly uncomfortable seats, which wasn't a good start. Thankfully, Mauritius was just beautiful.
This summer, we hired a villa in Mallorca, something we often do. But this year, our villa was a disaster. The pond was a cesspit, the house was filthy, and we paid £3,500 for the privilege. It was just wrong.
On a skiing holiday, bumming it with mates, we stayed in a place in Chamonix, halfway up a mountain. There was one bath between nine of us. We woke up one morning and someone had let themselves in and stolen all our valuables.
I absolutely love The Sukhothai in Bangkok, it's beautiful. I like Browns in London, too, and The Residence in Mauritius is extraordinary. It has it all: it's calm, well looked after, the rooms are lovely and big, and the staff couldn't be nicer.
Favourite walk/swim/ ride/drive?
A great drive is in Mallorca, from Pollenca over the Tramuntana Mountains and down to Formentor. You climb about 2,500m, and as you come back down the other side, the view is stunning.
Best meal abroad?
That's easy: Maria's in the Algarve. It's on the beach and they have an oil drum cut in half that's full of coals. You choose your fish from a bucket, they chuck it on the coals and you eat it with salad and a bottle of rosé. For me, meals aren't just about the food, they're about the setting and who you're with.
First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?
Jump in the water and swim.
I'd love to see South America.
Seville. It has culture and art, fantastic food and the best nightlife.
I have nothing planned at all. It might have to be a spin of the globe to decide where next.
John Torode is appearing at the BBC Good Food Show London at Olympia, 14-16 November (tickets: 0870 040 0324; londonbbcgood foodshow.com); his book, 'Beef and other Bovine Matters', is published by Quadrille (£20)
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