'I would love to go to Argentina to see people dancing the tango'

First holiday memory?

First holiday memory?

My parents took me to Switzerland when I was about six years old. I was expecting to see blue grass and red cows but it was no different to France - it was the greatest disappointment. I remember going camping in the Jura Mountains, too. There was no bathroom, so we'd wash in the natural pools, where the water was about two degrees Celsius.

Best holiday?

I took my girlfriend to the Maldives two years ago and we stayed at the Banyan Tree.There were no mobile phones, just the sound of the wind and the waves. One night I cooked my girlfriend a romantic dinner on a completely isolated sand bank in the middle of the sea. The hotel was supposed to collect us by boat at 10pm, but by 8.30pm the wind had started to pick up and our torch blew out, leaving us in complete darkness. The tide had begun to come in, as well as lots of crabs. At 10pm, the boat hadn't arrived and we started to panic, but thankfully it arrived 45 minutes later.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

I love Ireland and I love fishing so I go to Galway regularly. The Irish are so fun-loving.

What have you learnt from your travels?

Travel has without doubt influenced my cooking and the design of my hotel and my garden. We have a Japanese tea garden at the Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, which I was inspired to create after visiting Japan.

Ideal travelling companion?

Any of my sons, they are all great friends of mine. I also love to travel with my girlfriend but at the same time I like to have time to myself.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

We have a lot of culture in Britain, but not a lot of sun, so I always look for the sun. I manage to take about 10 days off in the summer and 10 days during the winter, which is marvellous because it gives me time to rejuvenate.

Holiday reading?

My favourite authors are Balzac, Dostoevsky and Zola; you could say I like classic novels.

Where has seduced you?

I love Venice in September and October when the tourists have gone. It is the most incredible city, so highly charged and so feminine and artistic. I also love the south-west of France around Biarritz - there is a wonderful culture of food and people that hasn't been lost.

Better to travel or arrive?

Travelling is getting faster, but it is still such a stressful experience, so I don't particularly like the process. Having said that, part of the enjoyment of a holiday is in the anticipation.

Worst travel experience?

I once picked up somebody's suitcase and they picked up mine and we ended up thousands of miles away from our belongings.

Worst holiday?

It was on a small island called Boracay in the Philippines, before it had become popular. I stayed in a hut with a mud floor; the shower was a bucket with holes and the mattress was full of lice. I ended up with all sorts of illnesses.

Best hotel?

I love the Château de Bagnols in the Beaujolais. It's a 15th-century house that has been completely renovated; it's like an art museum - it's just unbelievable.

Best meal abroad?

I have had so many different meals in my life, but I suppose my favourite meals are made with food that doesn't punish you, that is light, fresh, seasonal and exciting, but without ever being avant garde. I like modern classics.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

If I'm in France I normally pour myself a little Pernod or Ricard, or if I'm in Italy I have a double espresso; it depends where I am.

Dream trip?

I would love to go to South America; to Brazil for example, or Bolivia. I would love to see people dancing the tango in Argentina, and drinking in old-fashioned bars.

Favourite city?

I love Budapest and Venice. I still think that Paris is one of the greatest cities in the world in terms of architecture and culture.

Where next?

I am taking 10 days off to go to Mallorca with my son and daughter and we are going to stay at La Residencia, which is one of the most amazing hotels.