On our first day at Sri panwa, I do something totally unheard of – I have an afternoon nap. Afterwards, I'm horrified and I drag my wife Tana to the gym to ease the guilt. But if I'm honest, I secretly enjoyed it, although there's no way it's going to become a regular thing. Last year was one of my busiest. As well as travelling – my TV show Kitchen Nightmares started in the States – and expanding my business, I opened two pubs in London, and restaurants in Ireland and Prague, so I need a break. But while my mind and body can rest for two weeks, my taste buds will be getting a vigorous workout.
I love Thai food. Many chefs are nervous of it because they think it's a culture they can't tap into. But combining Thai influences with modern French cuisine is fantastic, so I often take my restaurant guys out to eat Thai. It's crucial that they understand the combination of flavours. I'm looking forward to discovering authentic recipes in Thailand, and enjoying a relaxing family holiday in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
The Sri panwa resort is perched on the Panwa cape at the southeastern tip of Phuket. The view is breathtaking. The sea stretches out in front of us, dotted with islands and the occasional fishing boat. Our villa is spectacular too: five bedrooms and five bathrooms, an infinity pool overlooking the sea and a whirlpool in one corner. We even have our own butler, Tom, who unpacked our suitcases. The children – Megan, nine, seven-year-old twins Jack and Holly and Matilda, six – are in heaven. The pool has been filled with inflatable dolphins and rubber rings and they play in it for hours.
I'm already discovering new foods – after a lunch of braised beef curry, we have zalacca fruit. It has a thin red-orange skin and is sweet but tart. An acquired taste, I think, but good.
Later, we're collected by tuk-tuk – the little three-wheeled Thai taxis are perfect for the steep hills – and ferried to dinner at Sri panwa's restaurant, Baba. Local chefs have been invited to cook here every other night and tonight our chef is Madam Rose, a renowned local restaurant owner who specialises in southern Thai food. She cooks a huge range of dishes, including deep-fried chicken with lemon grass, crab meat curry, deep-fried snapper served with sautéed young coconut leaves and a delicious spicy prawn soup.
The Sri panwa chefs are a class act and it would be a huge success if they replicated that style in London. It's authentic and not too clever or pompous. When I think about how we got carried away with nouvelle cuisine in the 1980s, all that arrogance with the level of fine dining, it's embarrassing.
We wake up in time to see another amazing sunrise over the bay. The children come and join us in bed and even they lie still, in awe of it. 'You don't see this at home in London,' says Matilda. No, not quite.
The breakfasts are delicious and served by the pool. This morning, Nim, who is looking after us, brings a traditional Thai breakfast. Typical dishes are fish balls, rice soup and pork, or a light curry, although we struggle with the notion of eating spicy food first thing.
Our holiday is the one time of year that we cherish. I relax more when we're all together. When I switch off, I'm very disciplined about it – I'm not even itching to get into the hotel's kitchens. On holiday, I'm not the man the public sees shouting and swearing. I'm a self-confessed perfectionist but I am different away from the kitchen. Winning 12 Michelin stars – three for my London restaurant – isn't done easily. If, in the kitchen, we're not hitting perfection then I swear and shout. In Thailand, people are so polite, I love their manner. From what I see of Sri panwa's chefs, their level of control in the kitchen is far better than mine!
To really unwind, there's nothing like a traditional Thai massage. The masseuse at the spa puts her heart and soul into it. I think she is about 172 years old and is famous for her massages. I soon learn why – it is the toughest massage ever. I feel like I've done 12 rounds with Mike Tyson. But afterwards, having spent a year hunched over hot plates, I feel straightened out.
After another day in the pool, the children are wiped out. Tana and I go for dinner at Baba. Tonight, the chef from the restaurant Patara is cooking – they have several restaurants in London and one in Bangkok – and the food is amazing: egg nest bundle with a prawn, pork and coriander filling, poached scallops in a spicy lime and chilli vinaigrette, Phuket lobster in green curry and sweet basil. I didn't know where to start.