Jason Atherton: Meet the celeb chef popping up at Beach Canteen
What’s On has a Jason Atherton interview with the celebrity chef in Dubai for Dubai Food Festival. He’ll be at Beach Canteen Feb 26 to 28.
He’s conquered London, has New York in his sights, and will bring his signature Social restaurant concept to Dubai in 2015. We spoke to chef Jason Atherton ahead of his appearance at a pop-up event at Beach Canteen on Kite Beach.
When did you fall in love with cooking? I started cooking at a young age in my mum’s guesthouse in Skegness, Yorkshire, mainly helping out with the breakfast. I really started to love it when I came to London and worked with some of the world’s top chefs. It was there that I realised my talent. To find something you can both enjoy and make a living from is a rarity I’ll never take for granted. Cooking is very much my life.
Which chef do you most admire? Many chefs have influenced my life, but the two that stand above all others are Ferran Adria [head chef at Spain’s famed El Bulli (below)] and Thomas Keller [The French Laundry in California (below)]. Both have been massive influences in my culinary life and I owe them both.
Are there any ingredients that you refuse to use? I only work with quality ingredients. For me it’s all about the standard of food. If it’s good quality I’ll use it, if not, it won’t make it past the kitchen door.
What was your most memorable meal? One recent dish that really stands out was at Dabbous (below) in London. I had the soba noodles made with duck fat, duck consommé, cabbage and mushrooms. It was the most amazing stock I have ever tasted.
Can you give us a sneak preview of the menu at your upcoming Dubai restaurant Marina Socia, opening at the Intercontinental in Dubai Marina? The concept is Mediterranean with an Italian influence. One dish to look out for is the wood-fired and smoked blue Scottish lobster, which is simple but delicious. We’re also putting soufflés on the menu, including a date soufflé with walnut ice cream.
Why did you want to get involved with the Dubai Food Festival? I have a long history and a love affair with Dubai [Atherton worked at Gordon Ramsay’s Verre (below) in the Hilton Dubai Creek], and it was an honour to be asked to be part of the festival this year. It provides my team and I with a unique opportunity to give people a taste of what’s to come at Dubai Marina.
What’s your favourite food festival? I attended the Madrid Fusion Festival a couple of years back and absolutely loved it. I trained at El Bulli (below) in my early days and have a big love of Spanish food and culture. Taste Of London is also a good one. I’m due to attend the St Moritz Festival at the end of January. This year’s theme is the ‘British Edition’. We’re planning to show the world how amazing British food really is.
Do you like meeting foodies at festivals? Absolutely, it’s where us food lovers gather and talk about our favourite topic. I get asked all sorts of questions about emerging trends, my favourite restaurants and my best meal ever. I’ll never tire of talking about food.
Is it good to talk to chefs at festivals and swap ideas, or are you a secretive bunch? I think chefs are very open and I personally love to swap ideas and discuss new trends and techniques. That’s what keeps the creative side of cooking alive – there’s nothing to be gained by being greedy and trying to keep everything to yourself.
You’ve worked in Dubai in the past. What is it that draws you to this city? I have such fond memories of Dubai; it’s where I first met my wife, Irha. When I lived in Dubai it was a third of the size it is now. It’s great to see neighbourhoods like Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Beach evolving. The restaurant scene has also grown immensely. Not only do you now have big brands like Zuma and Nobu, you also have fantastic home grown talent that continues to emerge.
February 26 to 28
Kite Beach, Jumeirah, Dubai, free. Tel: (600) 555559. dubaifoodfestival.com