The distance between Dominique Ansel’s namesake West Village café (where he’s currently hosting the whimsical UP dessert tasting menu) and his upcoming bakery in Tokyo mean the prolific pastry chef is quickly becoming an expert in the art of business travel. Here he spills his travel tips, preferences, and stories—like that time he flew on a military cargo plane to French Guyana.
What was your first international journey?
I went to French Guyana in South America for my military service. It was the first time I had ever left home and France. Boy, was it a long trip away.
What was your latest trip?
Sixteen hours away to see our team in Japan for our bakery in Tokyo.
Where to next?
I'm always telling myself that the next trip will be a vacation, but that hasn't been the case for close to three years now. I'm hoping it'll be to somewhere sunny with great food, wine, and time to rest.
Aisle or window seat?
You mean those single flatbed seats aren't an option? Haha. I'm strategic about it. On a full flight, I'll take the aisle so I don't disturb anyone when I get up. But on a relatively empty flight, I'll move to the window seat so my elbows don't get bumped by the drink cart.
Check or carry on?
Both, usually. Always a laptop on the carry-on and larger suitcase to bring tools and supplies with me.
What destination do you hate sharing with others?
I'm happy to share every place I've been to.
Who is your favorite travel companion?
My girlfriend, who is incredibly private and telling me not to say this. But there's really not anybody else.
What was your worst flying experience?
My worst experience was also my first. I was flown on a military cargo plane to French Guyana. It was not made to transport people, so there weren't any seats, just harnesses that you grab onto. It was free though.
What is the strangest thing you've carried-on?
Chocolate oyster shells to Miami.
What is the strangest thing you've ever bought on the road?
A hookah from Egypt, which I still have.
Is there one item that is always in your suitcase?
A universal adapter.
What is the most interesting encounter you've had with a stranger on the road?
I've had some pretty exotic experiences. Once someone asked if I knew where to buy a panda—and I had every reason to believe that he could actually go through with it.
What is the best book you've read on the road?
I don't remember the last time I've had a chance to sit down and read a book. A magazine is probably all I have time for at the moment.
If you could live the life of classic explorer, whose would you chose?
Indiana Jones was my favorite movie growing up.
What is your most memorable meal from your travels?
I remember closing down a shop in Kyoto and jumping behind the counter to cook yakitori with the chef.
What is your favorite souvenir?
Someone gave me a charm once from a temple and told me it would destroy my enemies. I think it actually worked.
If your travels were a movie, what film would they be?
Most definitely a comedy.
What's your travel soundtrack?
We make custom playlists for U.P., our after-hours tasting menu at Dominique Ansel Kitchen, and so I'm always listening to that when I travel to check on the quality of the music we're playing.