Sean Connolly shares his memories from a life in travel
What do you miss most about travel right now?
The thrill of it. I miss the butterflies and excitement of jumping on a plane, awaiting new destinations.
Where was the first overseas trip you ever took, and what are your strongest memories from it?
Every summer, my family went to the south of France, where I had the biggest food thrill of my life. Dad presented me, my brother and sister each a full steamed crab. I'll never forget us breaking the claws and eating with fervour.
What was a standard family holiday like when growing up?
The annual holiday to the south of France stuck to a formula. We packed up the bright orange Morris Marina, driving from Yorkshire for the long journey south. Our destination was today's equivalent of glamping, with campsites set up for us when we arrived.
Who has most inspired your travels?
My grandparents, Esther and Ted. On their mantelpiece, they had a portrait taken on the QE2 cruise ship as a reminder of their great journeys.
What is the greatest trip you've ever been on?
All of my trips around the Mediterranean, chasing food of the sun throughout Greece, Italy, Spain and Turkey. These soft spices and flavours were my inspiration for my new restaurant Esther at QT Auckland.
And the worst?
I was working on the QE2 at 19 years old, and we hit the roughest seas in the ship's history en route to New York, all of us in life jackets during dinner service. When the ship lurched, the kitchen equipment went sliding in an avalanche of pots and pans.
What's your approach to packing for an overseas trip?
I usually pack a suitcase three times, and triple check. In the end, I'm a minimalist with just one week's worth of clothes no matter how long the trip.
What is the destination that most surprised you – good or bad?
In Spain, I went to the great food festival Alimentaria in Barcelona, and ate acorn-fed jamon iberico with Ferran Adria.
Where was your most memorable sunrise/sunset?
The best ones are at home in Australia and New Zealand. Clare Valley, Coogee, Queenstown and Waiheke Island all have spiritual vibes about them.
What's the first thing you do when you get home from a long trip?
I meet up with my mates for a swim. There's nothing like being able to swim eight months of the year, the minerals of the ocean cleansing your soul.
What do you miss most about home when you travel?
When I'm away from Auckland, I miss this city of great eaters and the friends who have become family to me here.
Where is the one destination you must see before you die?
Beirut. It's one of the most exciting cities in the world, where eating is synonymous with partying and dancing.
What's your favourite thing about travel?
Everyone's writing their own travel story. You can visit the same places, but no two journeys are the same for anyone.
Chef Sean Connolly is the creative director of food and beverage at QT Auckland. His new restaurant, Esther, opens November 11.