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Taking on the world a natural for kitchen’s new ruler

THE AUSTRALIAN, 9 Jan 2016 12:00AM

Britain’s hottest chef is not a man who likes talking about any global expansion strategy. And don’t dare to call Jason Atherton’s fast-expanding portfolio of 19 restaurants a chain or a brand.

“Everything I do is organic; I don’t have some sort of contrived strategy about world domination,” laughs Atherton, the cool ­celebrity chef many have dubbed the new — and much nicer — Gordon Ramsay. It’s not a moniker the new owner of Sydney’s newest cool ­restaurant — Kensington Street ­Social, which opens in Sydney next Wednesday — particularly likes, despite being Ramsay’s brightest protege and top chef for nine years. But where Ramsay’s global ­network of 30 restaurants was carefully planned as a money-making venture to capitalise on the swearing chef’s TV fame, Atherton says that the string of restaurants he has opened since winning his first Michelin star in London in 2011 have all happened more by chance. “I never really planned to open a restaurant in Sydney; it’s not like I deliberately go to a city and start searching for a site,” Atherton said. “But it’s that organic thing again; the time is right and it feels the natural thing to do. I’ve been coming to Sydney for seven or eight years now, a lot of my chef friends live here now and the produce in Australia is second to none.” Atherton follows in the footsteps of other British celebrity chefs such as Jamie Oliver, ­Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal, who last year brought his multi-starred Fat Duck restaurant to Crown Melbourne for six months. But Atherton says his restaurant in inner-city hipster Chippendale at the boutique Old Clare Hotel is no pop-up shop or hands-off operation. He intends to be around for the long haul, flying into Sydney every three months between visits to his other restaurants in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Dubai.