He's cooked for Oprah on a tropical beach in Australia, thrived in some of the toughest kitchens in Britain and taught everyone from Ellen DeGeneres to Conan O'Brien how to improve their kitchen skills on TV. Born in Melbourne, Australia, trained in Britain and currently running two successful restaurants, Maude and Gwen, in his adopted home of Los Angeles, Curtis Stone knows a thing or two about how to get some shut-eye on a long-haul flight – and where to eat once you get there.
I go back to Australia six times a year and I'm up in New York a few times a year, and then here in Toronto quite a bit with the Shopping Channel, so I'm on the road a lot. It's enough travel that I'm an executive or diamond member with three different loyalty programs: Oneworld, Star Alliance and SkyMiles. It's a lot of travel, but I actually look forward to the flights. I watch a couple of movies, have a glass of wine. I don't find it too difficult, to be honest. I quite enjoy it.
Steaks on a plane
The thing that I always try to order on the plane is something that's been braised. Those kinds of things hold up really well. I would never order a steak, for example. It's virtually impossible for them to cook it and reheat it and for it to still be tender. It's always gristly and dried-out and that's not my idea of fun, so I always get something that's a little saucy.
World's greatest food city
I know it's kind of boring for me to say 'cuz it's where I come from, but Melbourne is my favourite place to eat. A lot of people might not think of it as one of the great food cities of the world, but it really is, in my opinion. We just hosted the World's 50 Best Restaurants awards there and did pretty well. We've got places like Attica that are cooking with incredible, Indigenous Aussie ingredients and Vue de Monde, where Shannon Bennett brings a sort of Aussie twist to French food. And then there's the incredible Southeast Asian places, where you've got chefs like David Thompson who's just opened Long Chim, a really incredible, casual Thai place that I love. It's that sort of end-to-end cooking that I find really fascinating.
How to find great eats
I think the internet's changing things pretty rapidly when it comes to finding great restaurants. Even just 10 years ago, I would, say, go buy the Michelin guide that covers the city and that might help, but these days you can tap into more of what's happening locally with the likes of eater.com, for instance. You really just need to find one good spot, though. Then, if you can somehow strike up a conversation with the chef and ask them what they would suggest, you're on your way. The first time I went to Amsterdam, for example, I really wanted to go to this one restaurant. I e-mailed them and they were unfortunately closed on that night, so I e-mailed them back and said, "Would you mind asking the chef where he recommends? I'm dying to see what's interesting in the city." So, he wrote back and ended up sending me to this little place out in the suburbs on the third floor of a building that you just would never otherwise come across, and that is still one of the best meals I've ever had. That's the ticket, speak to a local chef or restaurateur and ask them what they think. That's the best way to get authentic advice.
Stay sleepy, my friends
Always get on the plane tired, is my advice. Start thinking about where you're going and the time zone you're going to and, if it's convenient for your schedule, living a little closer to that time zone. Going back to Australia, for instance, it's a midnight flight from the West Coast, so that's okay. You get on completely tired and can probably get a good eight hours sleep on the plane going that direction. But when you come back, you leave at 10 in the morning, and you're never tired at that time, so I always make sure I have a late dinner the night before or go out for some drinks or leave myself a little bit of work to do, so I'm never in bed before 1 or 2 in the morning. Then I set an alarm for 5 in the morning, have a good shower and hit the gym. If you do a bit of exercise and starve yourself of some sleep the day before, you get on the plane a little tired and crash out and you'll get to your destination in a little better shape.
Family vacation planning
Me and my two boys and my wife play a game called Holiday Schmoliday. We go around the table and we all get to make a suggestion about where we should go on our next vacation. It's pretty funny when you play with a three-year-old and a six-year-old. They don't really know the destinations so much as the activities. The last time we played, one of them wanted to go on a cruise, one wanted to go camping. At one point, the three-year-old actually wanted a parrot, for some reason. Anyway, at the end, we wrote all the ideas down and we all got to veto someone else's. That was my favourite part – when you got to cross someone else's idea off the list. So that left us with eight destinations and we're in the middle of figuring out right now where we'll go next.