Rewards meets Jason Atherton

Find out what makes the cookery star tick

Top chef Jason Atherton is recognisable to many following his stint on TV’s hugely popular ‘Great British Menu’, and his regular slots on ‘Saturday Kitchen’.

Jason’s latest restaurant venture, the four Rosette-awarded Pollen Street Social, has taken the culinary world by storm, offering a high-end yet buzzy and social dining experience.

We caught up with Jason for a quick Q&A about life inside and outside the kitchen.

What made you want to become a chef?
My main inspiration was Marco Pierre White – he changed people's perceptions of the industry, making it become cool and sexy, and making you want to be part of it. Cooking became cool the day Marco donned chef whites.

Jason Atherton restaurant

Pollen Street Social

Pollen Street Social is your latest exciting venture – and we love the concept of London’s first-ever dessert bar! How did you come up with the idea?
The main reason for the dessert bar was simple – I wanted my restaurant to be fun. I spend a lot of time in Asia, and love the concept of counter dining, like sushi. I realised how great it would be to have a dessert bar inside the restaurant, for guests to discover a new experience right at the end of their meal.

What gets you most passionate?
Food, plain and simple – food and restaurants. I am totally absorbed by the process of turning raw ingredients and space into something people want to indulge in. I just love it.

Cooking became cool the day Marco donned chef whites.

Who is your greatest inspiration?
All chefs are an inspiration, but I particularly admire Rene Redzepi, who is a great friend. I think he’s managed to turn modern food on its head and give us all a new direction.

How does it feel to be creating the menu for the AA Hospitality Awards?
It’s a big honour to cook at the AA awards – I still remember the likes of Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay picking up their Chefs’ Chef awards, and thinking that one day I would love to be like that. Now I’m cooking the food at those awards – how cool is that?

Who do you get nervous cooking for?
I don’t get nervous apart from when I launch a new restaurant, as everyone is my critic – that’s a hard line to go down.

My real dream would have been to become a pro golfer – I just love golf.

If you weren't a chef, what career would you have chosen?
I would have been in the city – I think I like the idea of that. But my real dream would have been to become a pro golfer – I just love golf.

What is your favourite ingredient?
My favourite ingredient is the seasons. They give me my inspiration, and my larder to cook from.

What do you cook on your night off?
I often cook Asian food, as I'd like to open an Asian restaurant at some point in my career – I’m getting quite good at it!

What are your hobbies and interests when out of the kitchen?
Golf is a big passion of mine. I’m lucky enough to have a relationship with BMW, who are a big sponsor of a number of golfing tournaments, so I’ve managed to play with Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Colin Montgomerie.

What’s the biggest compliment someone could give you?
The biggest compliment someone could pay me would be to tell me that I was a great chef who had made a real difference within the industry.

(24 October 2013)