Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton talks treasured dollar bills, a keepsake kettle and living the cuisine dream.
Subconsciously, the word ‘Michelin’ has been like the rudder that has kept my boat on course. Four of my restaurants now have Michelin stars and we try our best every day to cook to perfection. This Michelin Man was from a little vintage shop in Grasse, France.
For a chef, a knife is an extension of your arm – much like a racquet is for a tennis player. I bought this in Florence five years ago. It’s made from a special carbon steel and has a brass weight in the back, so when you chop it has a natural movement.
I’ve been a huge fan of [top US chef] Thomas Keller my whole life. He chose me to cook dinner with him for a documentary he did in the States. Over there, it’s a tradition that you can’t work for free so he gave me this dollar. I asked him to sign it as a memento.
My daughter Keziah painted this for my office. She’d been inspired by Monet. We’re quite a creative family and it was the first time I saw it shine through in her. It was like, ‘Woah!’ I want my girls to be creative because it opens up a new world of imagination.
Dining in France was my first-ever cookbook. It cost £12.95 from WH Smith in Skegness – a lot of money back in 1987 – and I saved up to buy it. I remember saying to myself, ‘If I want to do this for the rest of my life, I’m going to get really good at it.’
We dressed our daughters as chefs for a photo session I booked while we were in the Philippines. This is my favourite photo of them because it’s part of who I am. Keziah, now 13, is a delicate flower but Jemimah, seven, is feisty – she could be a chef!
Pollen Street: The Cookbook is my life’s work and I’m so proud of it. In it, I talk about the history of my restaurant Pollen Street Social and what I’ve achieved. I hope that a young chef might pick it up and say to themselves: ‘I want to cook like this.’ That’s the dream.
This old Iranian kettle was the first significant thing my wife Irha and I bought together when we met 18 years ago. I asked her out six times, and she finally said yes. She had just moved into my apartment in Dubai. It’s been in the family ever since.
Interview by Emily Hill
Jason’s new TV series The Brigade will be on BBC2 next year. To find out more about his restaurants, go to jasonatherton.co.uk