The seemingly unstoppable Neil Perry takes time out from running six restaurants in his Rockpool empire, writing recipe books, presenting TV cooking shows and working as consulting chef for Qantas to talk about his favourite travels and, yes, food!
What city do you most often visit for business?
I spend about 120 days travelling each year, and that includes around 25 visits a year to Melbourne to look after my three restaurants there (Rockpool Bar & Grill, Spice Temple and The Waiting Room).
What are your best tips for Melbourne?
I think that Crown Towers is the best hotel in Australia. I love the Flower Drum Cantonese Restaurant in Market Lane, St Kilda’s Cafe di Stasio and Proud Mary's in Collingwood for coffee. The best cookbook shop is Books for Cooks on Gertrude Street, Fitzroy – right across the road from Ladro’s, where you can get great pizza. Plus there are my three restaurants, which I believe are some of the best in town!
What's the one thing you do (or try to do) on every trip?
Get as much work done as possible so I leave the business in good shape until my next visit.
On any business trip, what do you like to do in your spare time?
My whole life is about food so I like to eat and drink somewhere interesting.
What’s your favourite city to travel to?
San Sebastian. I think it is the best food town in the world. You can eat well at every level from simple pinchos to the best fine dinners in the world.
What’s your favourite hotel?
The Upper House in Hong Kong. I love everything about it, and the service is amazing. Also The Mandarin Oriental in New York, again for the service and the comfort level.
When you’re overseas, what are your favourite stores to shop in?
I love Prada, and I always find cookbook and kitchenware shops. I just can't help it. I really need to get some other interests!
Tell us about your best overseas dining experience.
Mugaritz in San Sebastian. I love it because the food is so concentrated and delicious. This is pure Andoni Luis Aduriz. He is so focused on bringing out the natural flavours of the food he cooks. I’m also happy eating lobster off the grill at Kaia in San Sebastian: it rocks!
Outside of Spain I love The Fat Duck in Berkshire, England for Heston Blumenthal's curiosity and generosity and The French Laundry in California's Napa Valley – Thomas Keller runs such an amazing restaurant experience from the brilliant produce to the world’s best service.
What are some essential carry-on items you’d never leave home without?
My laptop and a cookbook to read on the flight.
How do you typically spend your in-flight time?
I like to do some reading and catch up on a movie, as this is the only time I have time to do that. If it’s a domestic flight I just catch up on some of the food stories I owe my publishers.
How do you beat jetlag?
Stay up, push through the tiredness and have another glass of wine, then take a melatonin and sleep.
What are the first things you do on a business trip after settling into your hotel?
See what work I have to do or make sure I’m ready for my first dining experience. If it’s a new place, a walk around town to get my bearings and a quick look to see if there are any food markets to visit.
About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.