Having worked alongside some of today’s most celebrated chefs, Jason Atherton’s early career prepared him for his ongoing success. Born in Sheffield, Atherton worked with the likes of Pierre Koffman and Marco Pierre White before joining forces with Gordon Ramsay and helping to launch Maze in 2005.
After overseeing the launch of Maze restaurants in Prague, Cape Town, Qatar and Melbourne, Atherton launched his own restaurant company, and his flagship property, Pollen Street Social, gained its Michelin star during its opening year in 2011. Alongside his many London properties, Atherton also operates restaurants in New York, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Dubai and Australia.
- What was your biggest career break?
I have to say it was working with Gordon Ramsay. I spent a lot of time working for him, and consequently he helped me be the complete restaurateur. Being a chef is one thing, running a business is completely different.
- Have you had a notable mentor – and if so what was it about them that was so inspiring?
I’ve been very lucky to have so many. One of my main mentors is, of course, Gordon Ramsay. I spent 10 years working with Gordon and learnt a lot from him. Ferran Adria taught me how to be creative and ambitious and never to accept second best. Marco Pierre White was a big influence on me too. He made sure we were always working super hard and always on top of our game.
- What one piece of advice would you give to the 20-year-old you?
To go and work for [American chef] Thomas Keller.
- What qualities to do you look for in the people you work with?
They should be creative, hard working, passionate and driven.
- Who do you admire and why?
Alain Ducasse, purely because of where our company has gone, running multiple sites and watching how they do it so professionally.
- What does the future of your career look like?
Much the same as where I am now and what I’m doing now. Obviously, post-Brexit, it will be an interesting time for chefs as well as diners to see what change this might bring about. Diners won’t want to spend much eating out, but will still want a great experience with great food.
- If you hadn’t chosen your current career, what would you have done instead?
To be honest I can’t imagine doing anything other than being a chef, but if I had to choose, it would have to be something quite creative. Maybe a clothes designer, as I love clothes!
- What is your biggest extravagance?
Clothes, I spend far too much on them.
- Who would you invite to your dream dinner party and why? (you can invite three people – they must be alive)
Alain Ducasse, Thomas Keller, Paul Bocuse. They have been massive influences on my life, and I find them inspiring. They are people I could continually learn from, and to have dinner with all of them round the table would be fantastic.
- What do you do to relax away from work?
I go the gym daily if I can, it helps me switch off. I like to play golf when I can, and to spend time with my family at the weekends.
- If you could change one thing about Britain today, what would it be?
I think in today’s society there is this attitude that people think they are ‘owed’ something, that they are entitled to stuff. I think people should work hard for what they want, should integrate into their society and be a good example to others. It’s really sad to see this attitude that exists in our society today.
- What would your last meal be? (please choose a starter, a main course and a pudding)
I would have a full, blowout meal from The Yardbird in Hong Kong. It’s an absolutely inspirational, truly delicious menu from the chef there, and I would go all-out if it were to be my last meal.