Jason Atherton has been racking up the air miles between Britain and Asia recently. The former Gordon Ramsay protege and head chef at Maze in London - now with his own Michelin star restaurant, Pollen Street Social - has made three round trips in the space of seven days. Having flown east to open his new restaurant in Singapore, he flew back to London for 24 hours to pick up the Chef of the Year at the prestigious Cateys - Catering and Hotelkeeper magazine's awards. After a celebratory but resolutely abstemious evening, it was back on the plane to oversee the kitchen at Pollen, based appropriately in the newly opened Gardens by the Bay development. While Atherton is the consultant chef for Hong Kong Airlines' business-class-only flight between Hong Kong and London, which was launched in March, Pollen marks his third venture in Asia. First came Table No 1 in Shanghai, and then tapas bar Esquina, which opened in Singapore in December. Before being approached by the airline, he'd never set foot in Hong Kong before. 'They came to me. I never go looking for business; I'm not one of those chefs who have a very strategic idea of growth,' says Atherton. 'They said they'd done some market research and my name came up on top.' After turning down the offer twice, he agreed to devise the Western menu. 'You have to change the way you cook for airline food, and you've got to keep it simple. The more elaborate the menu is, the more it can go wrong,' he says. 'You have to remember you're relying on a hostess to heat something up and serve it. We've practised different techniques of braising so we can keep the moisture in. I'm very happy with the series of dishes we're doing.' They include a smoked citrus salmon and fennel salad to start and, for mains, 35-day aged beef fillet with ginger carrots and beef cheek and chilli lamb shanks with mashed potato. Since taking on the project, Atherton has visited Hong Kong twice. 'I think it's a super cool city. It's so different to how I imagined. You see pictures of the skyline, but you don't know about all the islands and all the greenery.' Atherton admits to being in talks with a Hong Kong company to open a restaurant here, but quickly adds: 'It's just talks at the moment. I would like to open in Hong Kong and I think it will happen, but I'm not saying it will open next year. It won't be a fancy place, though. There's enough of that already in Hong Kong. If I open a restaurant, it will have to be cool.' He mentions the thriving private kitchen concept as a possibility. His enthusiasm for Hong Kong is a further indication that opening an outlet here may come to fruition. 'I turn a lot of projects down. I only want to open restaurants in cities I love so I'll be passionate about them,' he says. With the profusion of French and American chefs in Asian cities, the British are conspicuous by their absence. Atherton is the first to make the move. 'I don't see myself as a celebrity chef. I don't go around imagining Jason Atherton restaurants everywhere,' he says. 'I don't know why the British chefs haven't come out here. I'm sure Gordon [Ramsay] would love to.' Atherton doesn't shy away from the subject of his time at Maze. 'I loved that place, but it didn't feel like a family any more. It's no secret that when I left, Chris [Hutcheson, Ramsay's former business partner and father-in-law] tried to sue me, and that was a horrible time for me and my family. 'But I think Gordon is one of the finest chefs Britain has ever produced. The guy's amazing. He's good at everything he turns his hand to - running the kitchen, TV shows, books - and he could charm the birds out of the trees. If Gordon walked in here now, I'd sit down and have a coffee with him.' Atherton left in 2010 and was about to sign a deal with London restaurant group D&D to back his own restaurant when Singaporean businesswoman Mavis Khoo Oei offered him another option. Oei's sons were regulars at Maze from the start and introduced their mother, who became friends with Atherton and his wife, Irha. Oei has a 25 per cent stake in the business and her presence undoubtedly made the Asian expansion possible. Atherton will travel to Singapore every four to five weeks for the first few months, but has enlisted former Zuma chef Colin Clague to head up the kitchen at Pollen. The menu is similar to that of Pollen Street Social, but with some sharing plates and lighter ingredients including more Asian produce. It will also serve afternoon tea - ever popular in Asia. 'It won't be on a cake stand,' Atherton says. 'We've had some lovely boxes with drawers made which say 'salt' and 'sweet'.' The second business, another tapas bar, will open in Shanghai in November. Atherton will send another of his chefs from London to head up Table No 1 as its chef, Scott Melvin, will move over to the tapas bar. Why the interest in tapas? 'I love it. I lived in Spain for a year [he was the first British chef to complete a stage at El Bulli] and I wanted to do a proper tapas bar in Asia, not a sit-down restaurant.' With expansion afoot, would he contemplate a permanent move here? 'Asia's been good to me. I will settle here at some point. My wife's Filipino and I have two children who are half Asian, so the plan is to come out here when I retire,' says the 40-year-old.