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Top chefs' holiday dining secrets

Marcus Wareing gorges on gazpacho in Mauritius... Hélène Darroze buys Basque pudding in Biarritz... Top chefs share their supper secrets with Gillian Orr

Wednesday 04 August 2010 00:00 BST


Raymond Blanc

Owner and chef at Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons

My favourite restaurant in Provence is called L'Oasis, in a town called La Napoule. It is run by the Raimbault brothers and they have managed to fuse French and Japanese cuisine with great success. Last time, I had raw red mullet, fresh from the Mediterranean.

Everyone loves to stop at marketplaces in Provence. They have the best melon there, it's so full of perfume and the flesh is a deep orange, it's unbelievable. I also love the bulbous fennel and artichokes that you can get there. The fish markets are always a joy to go to. I like to buy fish and then make a bouillabaisse.

For me, Provence is really a little treasure trove for the cook. You always bring back souvenirs, food and smells. Once I brought back lots of lavender from Provence which I love to cook with. I've just done the most stunning little dessert for Maison Blanc, an apricot almond cake which has a little bit of lavender on top. I made sure there was lots of lavender in the grounds of Le Manoir, because in the English sky, among the grey days, when you see lavender you think of Provence and it makes you smile.


Hélène Darroze

Head chef at The Connaught

Every August I go to Biarritz for two weeks, where I was born. My favourite restaurant there is Chez Philippe, which is owned by a friend of mine. It's by the sea so I eat a lot of the fresh fish. There's a nice market with lots of people and local producers from the country. I go there to buy the fruit and vegetables, some pastries and local cheese. Mancha, a cheese which is made with ewe's milk, is my favourite and I bring back a lot of it to London. I eat a lot of tomatoes there and it's the beginning of the season of the white bean, so they get used a lot. I love gâteau Basque also. It's a pudding stuffed with cream, almond and cherries. There's a shop called Maison Adam that sells the most wonderful macaroons, but not like the ones in Paris, they are sweet with almond. I always bring some back for my staff.


Sophie Grigson

Cookery writer

It's the street food that I love in Thailand, rather than the restaurant food. I always have the Pad Thai, it's freshly cooked and I love the little bowls of vinegar, chilli and sweet soy sauce so you can dress it how you like. It's incredibly cheap.

I also love the fruit sellers on the street and watching one of the young men peeling a pineapple is breathtaking. They peel it all in one go and it's done with such extraordinary skill. I've tried to do it and have made a complete mess. The mango with chilli and sugar is great too. I've brought back Kaffir lime leaves before because they're becoming harder and harder to get in the UK.

If you're interested in cooking, it's a joy there because you can watch how they do everything. I enjoyed watching them make the green papaya salad, which you can get over here but it is nothing like what you get in Thailand. They make a dressing with tiny pickled crabs and pound them with a whole lime in a pestle and mortar and then gradually add all the other ingredients and it tastes wonderful. Watching them make that dressing inspired me to make lots more Asian-style dressings. They're so light, full of flavour and fragrant.


Gino D'Acampo

Chef and television presenter

I go to Sardinia a lot, I think it is very underrated. I even had an apartment there once. You can go fishing in the middle of the night. Wherever I go, I like to eat local, because that's what's interesting and it tends to be better. My favourite dish to eat in Sardinia would be spaghetti con bottarga; which is a pasta with cured grated cod roe. I also like to go to an agriturismo, the farms that cook whatever is good or fresh that day. There might be only one dish on the menu, if they decide that's what is best.

I learned how to cook underground there: you take a whole pig or fish and wrap it in leaves, maybe vine leaves, then dig a hole and cook it under the earth. I did it one time and it's fabulous. People used to do it to conceal the smell if they were cooking a pig that they'd stolen.


Mickael Weiss

Executive head chef of Coq D'Argent

I have a house in Corrèze, in south central France, on the border of the Dordogne. They have masses of duck and foie gras there so I eat a lot of that.

When I'm on holiday I try not to get back into the restaurant life. I prefer to spend time with my family and kids and they enjoy fresh products. I mainly barbecue. There's a great old-fashioned bistro where we have confit of canard and potatoes fried in duck fat. It's very simple but it's what we like. They have beautiful tomatoes there, too. I always bring back a couple of bottles of wine and maybe some home-made jam that I've made with fresh fruit from the market.


Tom Aikens

Owner of Tom's Kitchen, Tom Aikens and the recently opened Tom's Terrace at Somerset House

Last year I went to Ibiza, where the food is obviously influenced by the Mediterranean, with a lot of grilled and baked fish and prawns, lots of nice summery Mediterranean salads. Much of the food is very fresh so often it's simply prepared, just grilled on an open fire. I love baked sea bass in salt. The paella is fantastic as well – I had that a lot – and I love the array of different fish and shellfish. John Dory is used a lot there, baked with olive oil and thyme. Tons of wild herbs grow in Ibiza, especially dill, thyme and rosemary so that gets used a lot in their cooking. They have great salt beds and so I brought back some coarse fine sea salt last time.


Marcus Wareing

Chef and restaurateur

The food is always of a high standard in Mauritius; it has that French-Indian quality about it, because of its history and location. The dish that stands out more than anything is the beautiful gazpacho they make, which is great with some crusty bread and a nice glass of rose wine for lunch. Fish is wonderful too, they have some great barbecues. I don't really eat meat there, just fish, fruit and salads.

What makes it different is the Asian spices. Because of the different influences there is a combination of French cuisine and style with the Indian flavours. Combined, it's great. You definitely come across some new spices there. For me, holidays are about relaxing, not cooking or learning new things, so if I ever cook it's usually outside on a barbecue doing incredibly simple dishes. I don't bring anything back with me, just a few extra pounds.


Prue Leith

Restaurateur, broadcaster, cookery writer and author of A Serving of Scandal

In South Africa, where I was born, I love to eat fish that has been caught that day and cooked over an open fire. The best fish they have is King Clip and yellowtail. We have that with potatoes boiled in sea water, that tastes better than any potatoes boiled in water and salt, although I don't know why they should, it's all the same thing.

They've always been famous for barbecue, or braaivleis as it is called there, which means burnt flesh. South African food has a strong Portuguese influence, so they do wonderful peri peri marinades. Lots of people go to South Africa and have biltong, a cured meat which is a bit like beef jerky, although I can't stand it. I always bring back Pro-Vita biscuits, a sort of crispbread which is a million times better than Ryvita. I also bring back Peppermint Crisps, which are made by Rowntree but only seem to be sold in South Africa: chocolate on the outside and honeycomb mint on the inside. South Africa has really come on hugely gastronomically.


Mark Hix

Chef and restaurateur and food writer for the Independent Magazine

I love going to Paris, although it's usually for work, as I don't really have time to take many holidays. I'm going this week and I'm livid because I can't get a table at my favourite restaurant, L'ami Louis. It's very simple food there, big cuts of meat: shoulders of lamb, whole roast chickens. It's very generous but can be expensive.


Thomasina Miers

Cook, writer, broadcaster and restaurateur

The food is such a part of the Mexican culture, and it's always great to get hold of the ingredients that all the locals are cooking with.

I like to get lots of herbs that you can't get in England – even their coriander is completely different to what we have; it tastes fresher and more vibrant. Their avocados are creamier, softer and have a much smoother flavour. They have such an amazing variety of tomatoes there, ones you've never seen before and they're let to ripen in the sun. Nothing prepares you for the flavour of their tomatoes.

If I eat out I like to go to Izote or El Bajio, both in Mexico City. They also have a huge variety of fruit that we don't see here, for example, mamey, which almost tastes like caramel, it's incredibly sweet.

I always bring back lots of dried chillies from my trips to Mexico – last time I brought back about 4kg and got in trouble for my luggage allowance.

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