Jason Atherton - the Michelin starred chef who will die a cook
Ahead of the opening of his Marina Social restaurant in Dubai, we sat down with the man famous - amongst other things - for making a liquid BLT.Matthew Priest August 27, 2015
Jason Atherton, famed Michelin-starred chef with 15 restaurants in his portfolio, owes a lot to Dubai.
He met his wife here in 2001, when he was working at Gordon Ramsey's restaurant at the Hilton. Some would say more importantly however, he learned to play golf next door at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club.
As a way of saying thank you to Dubai, Atherton officially opens his new restaurant, Marina Social, in the InterContinental Dubai Marina on the 4th September.
We sat down with the man recently, and got to know him a little better...
Once a cook always a cook
I was born and raised a cook, and I’ll die a cook. I don’t even like using the work ‘chef’, as you have to earn that right. When I worked with [three Michelin-star chef] Ferran Adria at el Buli towards the end of his career, his knowledge and command of the kitchen validated people calling him ‘chef’.
Despite the fact that I run several restaurants, I am still a young man and I am constantly learning about food and restaurants, so calling myself chef would only feel right when I have mastered all that.
I am not a ‘celebrity chef’. I don’t hate that label; I just don’t agree with it. Chefs exist to cook in kitchens, not solely to appear on TV. Sure, you can do it for promotional work, but it is not the purpose of my career.
For me a celebrity chef is someone on TV whose job it is to entertain people through food – there is nothing wrong with that, but that is not what I do.
Back once again
I was last working in Dubai 11 years ago as the Head Chef at Verre. I loved living here, but things have moved on very dramatically since then – Dubai Marina was a desert! These days it's much more like London where the city has different, self-sufficient communities that have everything you need.
The dish I am most famous for is one that helped me win the TV competition Great British Menu [in the video below]. It was a modern, liquid adaptation of a BLT. I must have sold thousands of those, but I no longer include it on my menus. My philosophy is that you should never rest on your laurels and push yourself to be creative. The industry moves so quickly, that you have to move with it, or get left behind.
I am naturally inquisitive, and I like to keep my finger on the pulse, but let’s just say that you’re unlikely to see a trendy Peruvian Food Truck by Jason Atherton driving around New York anytime soon!
To be a restaurateur, you have to have fire in your belly and wake up everyday thinking ‘I will make this a success’. You cannot be taught that desire, it has to be naturally within you.
At my flagship restaurant Pollen Street Social in London, our staff go outside every morning and physically clean the whole street. I want my guests to enjoy every second of their experience; even before they walk in – that’s the kind of commitment you need to succeed.
I try hard to eat healthy and to keep my weight in check, but if I was only allowed one final meal it would be an amazing rib-eye steak with blue cheese dressing, duck-fat chips and an amazing bottle of Cheval Blanc. After that you could chuck me off a building.