What do President Clinton, Julia Roberts and Tom Cruise have in common? Well, aside from spectacularly toothy grins, they all have one man in common: Mike Ward.
Ward is a chef who has cooked for stars of the screen and of politics. But the true stars in his life are his two daughters.
For the Australian-born, Toronto-based chef, travelling allows him to “almost become somebody else.” Says Ward, “it’s easy to leave certain parts of you back home and become a different version of yourself.” In early 2000, he expanded his creativity to include writing, producing and directing award-winning cooking/travel/ lifestyle TV series that have been seen in more than 120 countries. Ward’s insatiable appetite for food and adventure continues to drive him to explore and create.
We caught up with the busy globetrotter in Toronto.
Tell us where have you just come back from? My last major trip was in Sydney, Australia. My mouth waters every time I think about it. Sure I grew up there, but I’ve travelled enough now to have lost my biased opinion. I think there’s three things that define it as a leading culinary epicentre; very mixed population, particularly from Southeast Asia and the Mediterranean, phenomenal domestic produce and meats. So much so that virtually nothing needs to be imported, and a population that loves great food, and in turn supports it’s restaurant culture. Throw on top of that almost perfect weather all year round and in my opinion you have of food scene that’s better than New York or any other major capital.
Name a place that most lived up to the hype? I’ve had the good fortune on travelling a tremendous amount. In fact it’s a shorter answer to tell you where I haven’t been than where I have, but of all places Japan lives up to its hype. In every aspect of what they do it is a cultural anomaly. If you can deal with the idea that they are the most insular culture on earth it truly is worth the trip.
When I travel I almost become somebody else. It’s easy to leave certain parts of you back home and become a different version of yourself.
Which is your favourite hotel? Two hotels for me share the number one position, and both are polar opposite from each other. One would be the Windsor Manor in Bangalore, India. I travelled a lot to India throughout my 20s and that very colonial, almost slightly uptight old school British leftover hotel experience in the middle of an old Indian city is a magical combination. My second hotel would be Wynn in Las Vegas. Whether you love or loathe Las Vegas the attention to detail, design and service at Wynn is truly mind-blowing.
What’s your favourite meal? I’m often asked what is my favourite meal. For me it’s when I’m cooking for myself. That tends to be seafood dishes, often whole fish. I have a fetish for very fishy tasting fish, give me a whole grilled mackerel roasted with a smear of mustard a squeeze of lemon and a cold beer and I am in heaven.
What would you like in your mini bar? One thing I love in my mini bar is local beer. I love tasting beer from the region I’m in. Beer is an interesting food group the crosses economic divides very well. Often the poorest most developing nations on earth make the best beer.
I’ve lost my heart in … too many cities around the world to recall. I find when I travel I almost become somebody else. It’s easy to leave certain parts of you back home and become a different version of yourself. I find the notation of travelling very romantic, so for me that’s a person who falls in love with many things, including the occasional human a little bit easier when on the road.