Michael White Hits The Road For Asian Flavors, Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Jan 9, 2013 2:01 pm

He's known for Italian, but he knows much more

Chef Michael White photo
Opening Al Molo in Hong Kong last year opened a new world of flavors for Michael White.
 

Michael White is passionate about pasta. Enter any of his growing number of restaurants in New York City and now Hong Kong, and you'll see a menu filled with fresh house-made pastas that would rival most spots in Italy. But when he's traveling overseas, the man behind Marea, Osteria Moreni, Nicoletta and others likes to take his palate along for the ride, which means jerk chicken in Jamaica and street food in Bangkok. Here, he tells us about his travels and reveals that he's somehow never been to Japan. Yes, the man whose Italian seafood dishes would probably even make a fan of Jiro has never sampled sushi in Tokyo. Somebody get him there, quick! In the meantime, here's his current itinerary and more.

Where are you planning on traveling in 2013?
I'll be in L.A., D.C. and Florida. Also going to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Chang Mai, Angkor Wat, perhaps Istanbul as well. 

If you could travel anywhere (else), and had infinite resources, where would you go in 2013?
The one place I really want to visit is Japan. I've never been. I need to see the food and the culture. I love Asia but Japan has escaped me thus far! 

How much does food/drink have to do, if at all, with your travel plans for 2013?
Food is pretty much my life. I work it and live it. I love to take in a new environment, see the sights, see the resources, see the people, experience the cuisine and the culture as a whole. Much of my travel is for work and then I try to find a way to incorporate learning and experience into my trips. I will visit my restaurant Al Molo in Hong Kong and then take my wife to Thailand and Cambodia. I don't make many plans regarding food when traveling. I am more apt to wing it and visit local markets, eat some street delights, ask the locals where to go…and take plenty of Cipro. (Related: 12 Meds To Pack If You Want To Travel Like Anthony Bourdain)

What was your most memorable trip from the past few years?
I'm a sucker for Rockhouse in Jamaica when it comes to R&R — nothing beats the beach, jerk chicken and lots of Red Stripe. But my most memorable trip was definitely Louis XV Anniversary in Monaco with Alain Ducasse and over 100 international chefs. It was a beautiful setting filled with outrageous food and very fun company. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be invited to Alain Ducasses's 100th Anniversary of Louis XV in Monaco. 

What airlines do you fly? Do you have any frequent flier programs?
Singapore Air and Cathay Pacific are hard to beat. I'm a huge fan of the Star Alliance program. They fly everywhere, always have free wi-fi in the lounges and are incredibly accommodating. 

What about hotels? Any standout places that you've stayed or would like to stay?
If it is a Relais & Chateaux property, then it has to be good! I love the Four Seasons Bosphorus in Istanbul. The Shangri-La in Hong Kong is hard to beat. Rockhouse in Jamaica. The Savoy in London and the Hotel Paris in Monaco are top notch. 

What are you favorite cities for food, and if not mentioned above, where are you yearning to go to try the local cuisine?
Asian flavors might hold the key to my heart…they certainly have a way with noodles! I need to get to Japan and see Hiro himself, not to mention the ramen bars and the tempura stands. I want to take it all in…hopefully soon. 

Is there a food you have traveled over 1,000 miles for?
I travelled across the Atlantic without knowing a soul to go work at San Domenico in Imola, Italy. That was the beginning of my love affair with Italian cuisine and culture.  

Best food-related souvenir that you have ever brought back?
Gold truffle slicer and garganelli boards from Italy. 

Any favorite cocktail/beer/wine spots from your travels?
The Connaught Bar in London is one of my favorites. (Related: An Italian Gentleman In London)

Any must-have travel items?
I never travel without an iPad. 

Best travel nightmare story?
Two years ago I was returning home from Nice to Paris to JFK. I was with my wife and 7-year-old daughter returning after a two-week vacation. I popped an ambien and was ready to pass out, and 20 minutes into the flight, I smelled smoke and the pilot came on the loud speaker to announce there was an electrical fire on the aircraft. I was totally comotose due to sleeping pill. We had an emergency landing and all was fine — it was just an electrical fan that caught ablaze. The best part was that I was totally out of it the whole time — which was probably a good thing as I didn't get too excited. 

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