The two Michelin-starred chef of Mandarin Oriental, Paris, who practises martial arts in Japan and always travels with chopsticks, shares his globe-trotting moments
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How much do you travel in a year and to which part of the world?
I love to spend as much time as I can in Asia, Japan in particular. I generally travel there twice a year for a whole month. I stay in a little hotel, which is very simple, in the Ueno district of Tokyo. And I go to Kawakami-mura in the Nara area to practise kendo at the imperial temple. I recharge and meditate, and I learn about the cuisine. Every dish teaches me something – Asian cooking, especially Japanese, is my main source of inspiration.
What do you always take with you?
I travel as light as possible. The only things I always take with me are my chopsticks. They are like an extension of my hands.
On a plane, do you rest or work?
I work, work, work… until I get exhausted and fall asleep.
What are your must-have carry-on items?
My iPhone and Nike running shoes.
What do you like to bring home with you?
Good memories of new culinary experiences. I am not very materialistic.
What do you find most inspiring?
What I like most when I travel is to source new products and to look at craftsmen working differently, producing things in new ways.
What is on your iPod when you are away?
It’s a mix of all kinds of music, from classical, such as the Requiem of Gabriel Fauré, to rap by Akhenaton from French band IAM.
What books do you take?
I always get inspiration from new books, but my favourite remains the classic Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi.
What is your idea of a dream holiday?
It would be a peaceful and quiet environment, like the Japanese mountains. A tranquil atmosphere is a luxury nowadays.
What was your most magical recent trip?
Visiting Kagoshima [on the island of Kyushu] in Japan.
What do you like most about Mandarin Oriental hotels?
I like the atmosphere and the great hospitality at Mandarin Oriental. Also, we believe in the same philosophy: there is no fight between tradition and innovation.
What is most important to you when staying at a hotel and why?
Discreet and efficient service, which allows me to rest.