Five places that changed my life: Matthew Crabbe, chef owner, ECN Hospitality Japan

THE SUBCONTINENT

When I was about 21, a friend and I took the trip of a life time. The India/Nepal/Sri Lanka leg really stood out for me. The organised chaos, smells and poverty of India, riding a trail bike through the tea fields of Darjeeling, the natural beauty of the Himalayas, the cobbled streets of Kathmandu, riding on a bus roof up a narrow winding road to get to Kathmandu and the curries of Sri Lanka, which I can still taste to this day, all informed the way I continue to revere the world.

KYOTO, JAPAN

Quintessential Japan. My home for 3½ years. The place I met and fell in love with my wife, Maki. The birth place of my daughter, Sakura. Gion, the cobbled streets set around and on Shirakawa River.

The tradition is exemplary. My heart always skips a beat when I see geisha running in and out of authentic Japanese restaurants and clubs. The gardens are so carefully manicured, my favourite being Daisen in the Daitokuji group of temples. The simple clean cuisine, the markets, the Kyoto way of life …

LES BAUX DE PROVENCE, FRANCE

We headed to Provence for our delayed honeymoon. Les Baux de Provence is that special place in the middle of nowhere. Walking through the ancient bauxite quarries, that hold the extraordinary Carrieres de Lumiere multimedia art presentation, was quite a sensation. Oh, and drinking Provence Rosé in Provence is not to be missed.

YUCATAN, MEXICO

This is a special place for me. The Mayans are the most beautiful people I have ever met, so natural and carefree. Being in charge of five luxurious haciendas allowed me to travel (in my VW Beetle) all over Yucatan, from the shores of Campeche to the diamond in the crown, Hacienda Temozon, about 45 minutes out of Merida. A life that gave me beautiful memories and showed me how to live in peace.

WASHINGTON DC, US

Living in the US capital and working a stone's throw away from the White House in the soon-to-be-named best new restaurant in the US, 1997, Lespinasse, was a real eye opener. Cooking for high-level politicians such as Bill Clinton and Colin Powell with the secret service peering over your shoulder to see what's going into the fry pans made me realise the power plays happening in DC. I never got bored.

Sydney-born chef Matthew Crabbe's career includes being sous chef at Tetsuya's as well as Michelin-starred restaurants and five-star hotels in the United States and Mexico. Through ECN Hospitality Japan, he now runs the kitchens of three restaurants and bars in Tokyo: Two Rooms Grill|Bar, R2 Supperclub, and Ruby Jack's Steakhouse & Bar, and one in Manila (Ruby Jack's Steakhouse & Bar – City of Dreams). Matthew Crabbe is a special guest on a sold-out tour of Japan hosted by Wendy Wu Tours in conjunction with Traveller. See tworooms.jp; wendywutours.com.autraveller.com.au/traveller-tours

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