Aldo Zilli - My Holiday Hotspots
PUBLISHED: 00:00 17 September 2014
Italian-born celebrity chef and restaurateur, Aldo Zilli chats to Jill Nash about his enthusiasm for street food in India, the romance of Barbados and his fascination with Shanghai
Q How often do you travel?
A I travel all the time. Europe has mainly been the focus, but in the last 5 years my work has taken me all over the world. I’m usually away once every month, as I do consultancy work. Recently I’ve been to India (New Delhi, in fact), which was fascinating, and needless to say I ate a lot of food and visited all the local markets. The working aspect wasn’t that enjoyable, but I loved the variety and quality of street food, as they use very simple ingredients and there is a lot of fusion food and new ways of eating, which was intriguing.
Q What do you need for the perfect holiday?
A It has to be a 5-star hotel with a spa, a gym and a kids club! I have 3 kids, Laura, who’s 29, 8-year-old Rocco and 6-year-old Twiggy. The younger ones really need entertaining. My iPod and headphones are also essential too. Good weather is not essential to me (surprising for an Italian), because I always find things to do and places to explore and visit.
Q The most meaningful travel experience?
A Travelling and filming in South Africa (Cape Town), which I visited nearly 15 years ago. I visited the poverty of the townships, which was very moving for me to see first-hand. The trip inspired me so much, that when I returned I raised £200,000 for a wonderful local charity – the Red Cross Children’s Hospital. Work wise, we set ourselves a challenge on top of Table Mountain – where we set and served a table for 1,000 people. The memories of this trip will stay with me forever.
Q Funniest travel experience?
A It was one of the last trips on Concorde, where I took my wife Nikki to Barbados. I was trying to impress her (it was the early days!) - and Nikki didn’t know that she was going on Concorde and complained the plane was too small, and wasn’t first class. When we landed after 3 hours she commented, “I thought we were going to Barbados?” It was very funny at the time, and we still laugh about it now. I was also due to go to New York for a short trip, and ended up only seeing the inside of a bar with Chris Evans for 3 days – I’ve never been back, but I believe it is a fun city.
Q The worst hotel you’ve stayed?
A Last year in New Delhi, at The Ashok Hotel. The water was yellow, and the shower wasn’t working. I had it all. It should have been 5-star hotel, but I guess that rating is subjective. The room was simply unbearable – but because I was there for work, and employed - I just stuck with it. Needless to say I wouldn’t go back there for a holiday.
Q The best hotel you’ve stayed?
A Where I got married, The House in Barbados – it was super romantic, and offers privacy and seclusion, which are important to me. But the best hotel to take kids is in Italy, at the Hotel Il Moresco Terme in Ischia, for me they serve the best food I have ever tasted in a hotel – and hotel food can be touch and go, but that takes some beating.
Q Most surprising destination.
A Lagos in Nigeria. Nothing can prepare you for the culture shock. From the moment I landed I was surrounded by security – from the hotel to airport at 4am in the morning, it was shocking, and I just didn’t expect it, and felt like a film star! The hotel staff and the Nigerians were very pleasant, lovely people. It was pleasantly surprising.
Q Your favourite city?
A I would actually go and live in Shanghai. I lived in Soho for 25 years, and China Town was always around the corner, and when I went for work in Shanghai, I simply fell in love with the place. My wife also travelled there and enjoyed all the shopping and eating the most incredible street food. I fell in love with all the culture and the way they live – its organized chaos. It’s not that different to a busy town in Italy, and yet you feel very free and safe. Everyone was so friendly. Ironically I also tried some of the best Italian food in China – the Chinese love Italian food!
Q Best piece of travel advice?
A Always travel light, and dress comfortably, and prepare for delays and spending time on your own – taking music and good books is essential, and you can always buy stuff when you get there. Oh, and leave your children at home! (I’m just kidding).
Q Where next?
A Someone has invited me to Australia –where they have a food festival next year. I’m very much looking forward to that, if I can organize it with all my other commitments. And of course I will be heading to Abruzzo for White Truffle hunting at the end of October.
Aldo is Chef Consilere to the award-winning San Carlo group, with restaurants in Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds, Leicester, and Bristol. The next restaurant to be opened is FUMO, on Oxford Street, Manchester in October 2014, visit www.sancarlo.co.uk. Aldo has also written over 10 books, including two autobiographies, and has appeared as a guest chef on many cookery and lifestyle TV programmes, visit www.aldozilli.com