Dominique Ansel is more pastry wizard than ordinary chef, having turned the dessert world upside down with his sweet inventions (most notably the Cronut, of course). He has plenty on his plate, with his original New York bakery and the newer Dominique Ansel Kitchen—but that didn't stop him from recently opening a location in Tokyo (which is hosting an all-s'mores pop-up shop at the Shibuya Modi shopping mall until February 14). A few weeks before taking off for a visit to the Japanese capital, Ansel shared some travel tips.
Aisle or window?
The window seat, so my elbows don't get bumped by the drink cart and so I can rest my head on the side.
Check or carry-on?
Carry on, always. I lost my luggage once, and it definitely wasn't a fun experience.
What electronics or gadgets do you always pack and why?
My iPhone and laptop, and a universal adapter if I'm going abroad.
What are your tips for fitting for souvenirs in your suitcase?
I think you really have to be selective with the souvenirs you buy. The things that you take back with you really have to mean something.
Favorite foodie souvenir from your travels:
I-Ho-Yuan soy sauce from Hong Kong. It costs about five to 10 times more than other good soy sauces and it comes in a tiny bottle, but it's so delicious. It's aged like balsamic and takes more than a year to naturally ferment. It's really thick and savory, and I love to eat it with fried eggs over rice.
What is the most romantic destination you've visited?
The Alila Uluwatu in Bali. It's on a cliff that overlooks a 180-degree view of the ocean. It was so beautiful and peaceful.
Most romantic meal?
The ones I cook at home.
Restaurant with the most amazing view?
In Hong Kong, if you go to eat seafood on Lamma Island, there's a ferry that takes you out there. The ride is about 20 minutes, and at a specific point as it's crossing the harbor, the ferry turns and you're parallel to both the Hong Kong and Kowloon shores so you have a perfect view of both skylines and the moon right above you. It's unreal. And then when you reach Lamma Island, you get to eat unlimited typhoon shelter crab!
Meal you could eat again and again?
Seiryoen in Tokyo. They're beef tongue yakiniku specialists, and it's located in a really quiet suburban part of the city. They slice up different parts of the beef tongue and you start off with thinner slices then move on to the thicker ones.
Do you make reservations or keep meals spontaneous when you travel?
I used to keep it spontaneous, but now I like to plan things out so I can make sure I have enough time to visit the different places I've been wanting to try. After a few bad spontaneous meals, I've learned my lesson.
How do you prepare for a long flight?
I eat every single meal that's served, including all the in-between snacks. I usually reach for potato chips, too, mainly because I can't sleep during long flights and I end up watching eight movies and snacking on Pringles. The flight to Japan has some really great instant ramen, so I make sure not to miss that either.
What are your tips for planning a once-in-a-lifetime trip?
You have to give yourself enough time so you're not worried about work. For people who own their own business, work is always with you, and you have to plan ahead so you can travel during a time when you can actually enjoy it. I think a big part of it also involves reaching out to any friends who live wherever you're going. Even though it's a vacation, it's always nice to see a familiar face.
What camera do you recommend?
What are your go-to travel apps?
Uber, which works in so many cities now.
What are your in-flight beauty tips?
Definitely stay hydrated. And my team in Japan brought me these heated scented eye masks once; it's amazing to have when you're trying to fall asleep during that long flight.
How do you look refreshed after a long flight?
I'm not sure I really do.
How do you fight jet lag?
Usually I pack my first night with lots of things to do so I can't sleep and I'm forced to stay awake until it's late.
Best ways for killing time during a layover?
Eating! The Hong Kong and Tokyo airports all have lots of really good food, so I don't mind if I have a few hours to kill when I'm there.
Where are you going next?
I'm headed back to Tokyo. I have such an incredible, hard-working team, so I'm really excited to spend time with them and work on new recipes and menus. My birthday is going to fall during that trip. It'll be fun, but I'm also kind of nervous about what they're going to do. We celebrate birthdays with some really interesting and fun surprises around here!