May 16 2011
My personal style signifier is jeans and an open-neck shirt. I am about casual clothes – in part because the first thing I did when I came to Le Manoir was to remove the dress code. My friends would come here tied up in tight suits and high shoes; and they would end up talking about school fees and the bad weather! And I wanted them speaking about the sensuality and beauty of the experience. I think you cannot enjoy when you are overdressed, so you will very rarely see me with a tie.
The last thing I bought and loved is two bottles of the 2008 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche. This is sort of the holy grail of the pinot noir from Burgundy: six acres with tiny terroirs. I like to buy my burgundies young and to see how they age. So, in four or five years I know that I’ll love it definitively. I’m pretty convinced; you can’t go wrong with this. www.corneyandbarrow.com.
And the thing I’m eyeing next is a new suit from Brioni – well, a new old suit from Brioni. I bought one about eight years ago, but it’s... thinning. Yes, I am a casual dresser, but I do wear and wear the suits I have. So I’m going to see if Brioni still has the fabric, and have it replicated. But this time with a violent pink lining. And perhaps an extra inch around the waist. No; half an inch. www.brioni.com.
An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is Cape Town. I cooked there for two weeks. It’s the drama of the city; it’s hard to find a more dramatic coastline in the world. I took a helicopter tour over Table Mountain. I was teasing the captain; then he did some manoeuvres that shut me up – but he gave me quite a tour.
And the best souvenir I’ve brought home is a handful of sand from Vietnam: the most crystalline sand that you could ever imagine. It had several different minerals in it, metallic silver, but then at its base the absolute finest white sand.
The book on my bedside table is L’Entente Glaciale by the Frenchman Christian Roudaut, which is a spoof on the rapport between France and England. It’s about how we’ve practised enmity for hundreds of years, and still managed to create this entente cordiale, which is, of course, spiced with all sorts of less-than-cordiale aspects. We are the best enemies!
The grooming staples I’m never without are Biotherm Homme face cream. And I use Aveda shampoos. They have a volumising one called Pure Abundance. And I use L’Occitane shaving cream. It’s a small miracle to get up and look forward to shaving – but I do, because of this cream. www.aveda.com. www.biotherm.co.uk. http://uk.loccitane.com.
The last meal that truly impressed me was at Hélène Darroze [at the Connaught]; I was among many chefs celebrating her second Michelin star. And then we went to Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. That evening was so important, because it was the first time I really saw how it had all changed so completely in the chef’s world in Britain. There was great camaraderie, and sharing of ideas and secrets. You could see that gastronomy in Britain has truly gelled. There is now a real conversation. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1 (020-7201 3833; www.dinnerbyheston.com). Hélène Darroze, Carlos Place, London W1 (020-7107 8880; www.the-connaught.co.uk).
The best gift I’ve given recently is a beautiful piqué jacket – very classic – to my fiancée Natalia, who is Russian but loves classic French style. It’s from Chanel in the eighth arrondissement in Paris. 21 Rue du Faubourg St Honoré, Paris 75008 (+331-5305 9895; www.chanel.com).
And the best one I’ve received is a stapler. Really! It was from Phillip [Newman-Hall], my director. I saw it on his desk and admired it. And he gave it to me! It is a truly lovely piece of machinery.
In my fridge you’ll always find fresh ricotta cheese and agave syrup. I love maple syrup as well, for my porridge in the morning. And a lovely piece of comté, which you can eat or cook – it’s very flexible, the most flexible cheese.
The last music I downloaded was Spiegel im Spiegel, composed by Arvo Pärt in 1978. It has stillness and depth, like breathing on a high mountain. The violinist Tasmin Little played it for us here not so long ago. www.arvopart.info.