Celebrity Interview: John Torode
Q. Australia must have a special place in your heart. Tell us about your favourite travel experiences on home turf.
The only time I ever really went on holiday as a kid was to a place called Bright, which is up near Mount Buffalo on the border of Victoria and New South Wales. During the winter, it’s icy and cold and a place to go skiing and during the summer, there’s a confluence of rivers that all the kids swim in because the water’s lovely and cool. I love the Barossa in South Australia. It’s got all these cycle paths so you can ride around the whole [valley], which is really good if you’re wine tasting. Manly in Sydney is one of the most wonderful places in the world to swim, and Melbourne’s got an extraordinary food and coffee scene. That’s where I did my chef apprenticeships, so I have fond memories of Melbourne.
Q. You’ve become a brand ambassador for APT to highlight the Kimberley in Australia. What makes this destination special?
The fact that it’s so massive and completely untouched. Through the wet season you can’t live there because it gets flooded, which means that there are no big hotels or huge resorts. When it’s accessible, which is from the end of April to October, it’s the most extraordinary landscape. It’s nearly twice the size of Great Britain, but there’s only a population of 40,000. It’s surprising in its vastness and it’s absolutely beautiful.
Q. Tell us about some more of your favourite travel experiences.
I did a film in Argentina for the BBC four years ago where I drove 930 miles from Buenos Aires to Mendoza. I met the most incredible people, rode with gauchos, cooked with people at a homestead and ate incredible food. Bangkok is up there on my list of the greatest places on earth. Street food is the inspiration of all great restaurants and Bangkok is the street food capital of the world. India’s also really special. I love Mumbai but Amritsar is a town that very few tourists will ever visit – and they should. The Golden Temple is one of the most inspiring places on earth.
Q. Have your travels inspired your cooking?
I was unable to eat dairy as a kid, which was hard in the 1970s and ‘80s, when pavlovas had cream on, ice cream was [served] with everything and milk was in lots of stuff. Then I went to Bangkok and ate some street food and I had no worries because there was no dairy in it. I discovered this new world of flavours and textures and thought, ‘This is it. This is what I was meant to be doing.’ I’ve trained classically, but Asian food has a really special place in my heart.
Q. How important is a country’s culinary offering when you’re choosing your holiday destinations?
It’s always been really high on my list. When I travel, the first thing I’ll do is go to a market. That’s one of the things that really surprised me about going to the Kimberley – it’s the first time I’ve been away and been so distracted by everything else that I haven’t even considered food. I love it for that.
Q. What kind of holidaymaker are you – do you love to explore and get off the beaten track or do you travel purely to relax?
I’m going away to Majorca soon and I’m going to sit on a day bed, read books in the sunshine and maybe go for a walk – but not do much at all. We all deserve a bit of downtime. I like to be comfortable, I’m definitely not someone who likes to backpack. Besides that, I don’t really mind – if it’s going to be cold, let it be cold; if it’s going to be hot, let it be hot.
Q. Where in the world remains on your bucket list?
Loads of places! Japan, Cambodia, Canada, Alaska and Antarctica. I’d love to do the Trans-Siberian Express and go all the way across the top of Russia and drop down into China. I’d like to ride a horse across Australia because Australians go everywhere else, but we don’t visit our own country and it’s still quite undiscovered. There’s plenty to see in the world.
Q. Which three items do you always travel with?
My Globe-Trotter suitcase – it’s been everywhere with me. I always travel with my portable yoga mat and my iPad, which has my Yoga Studio app on it. I try to do yoga as much as I can when I travel – it’s a really good way to start and end the day. It’s also a nice way to concentrate your mind to see the world. And I always take a journal with me.
Q. What has travel taught you?
Regardless of what sort of reputation an area may have, there’s always places to discover. You’ve got to come off that beaten track, go for a drive, turn down an alley, get lost, go to a strange little beach or down a dirt track. That’s how you see a lot more of the world.