Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton is to act as an international ambassador as part of VisitBritain's GREAT campaign, which will see him presenting the best of Britain around the world to boost tourism.
The 2012 Catey Chef Award winner was asked to take on the role by Prime Minister David Cameron at the end of January. He joins other high-profile Brits including Victoria Beckham, Jenson Button and Andy Murray as part of a broader international tourism drive.
Atherton will focus on the country's food, drink and tourism industries, and will be supported by colleagues from VisitBritain who will shadow the chef's scheduled overseas trips.
While on location, he will be asked to support dinners and give talks that highlight Britain as a top tourist destination and producer of exceptional food and drink. A bus featuring Atherton's image will carry the slogan "Food is GREAT Britain". The first event will take place in Hong Kong in early March.
The chef, who currently runs 11 restaurants globally, announced the news during an interview at Westminster Kingsway College in front of 50 young employed and student chefs last week. Speaking at the Caterer and Hotelkeeper event, An Audience with Jason Atherton, sponsored by AA Hotel Services, Continental Chef Supplies (CCS) and Restaurant Associates, he said that he was incredibly proud to stand alongside sporting and fashion icons to promote his home country.
"Initially, when I received an email from David Cameron, I thought it was a hoax," he told delegates. "But I asked my PR, Jo Barnes, to check it out and she said the Prime Minister wanted to have a meeting with me, and so I attended a meeting at 10 Downing Street," said Atherton.
"Following the Government's investment in the Olympics, it appointed a team of ambassadors to spread the good word of Britain, and it's an immense honour to be asked to be the ambassador for food and drink - not bad for a boy from Skegness with no GCSEs."
The "GREAT" Campaign is part of the UK Government's drive to maintain the world spotlight placed on Great Britain during the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Atherton, who currently operates restaurants in London, Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai, will be opening two restaurants in London this year (at the Old Town Hall in Bethnal Green and City Social at Tower 42), his first restaurant in Dubai, also this year, and, following the huge success of Berners Tavern, which opened at the London Edition in October last year, a restaurant at the New York Edition in collaboration with Ian Schrager, in 2015.