Interview with Kat Judge, Owner and Head Chef of AliKats Mountain Holidays

Kat Judge, along with her husband Al, runs the chalet company AliKats Mountain Holidays based in Morzine, France. They offer truly exceptional catered Alpine chalet holidays to their guests. Ever since Al and Kat met at a fancy dress party in Stoke Newington in 2006, they talked about moving from London to the Alps to set up their own chalet company and, in fairly typical fashion for them, they made the decision and then put it into action pretty quickly!

They quit their office jobs (Kat’s in media sales, Al’s in management consultancy), rented out their flat and made the permanent move to Morzine in 2008 where they started off by spending a season working for an independant company as chalet hosts so that they could learn the ropes and also have a lot of fun skiing and snowboarding as well! They absolutely loved it and so forged ahead with getting AliKats up and running. They started off with one large chalet, La Ferme a Jules, which sleeps up to 26 people and now going into their fourth season they are launching two amazing new chalets in the same area.

Alikats Mountain Holidays

What is it that you do exactly?

I am the owner and head chef of AliKats Mountain Holidays. The thing I love about this job is that there is rarely a “typical day” as something generally crops up to keep things interesting! However during the winter season, it would usually involve an early start with my two children, juggling getting them ready for the day whilst squeezing in the odd email replying to an enquiry to stay in one of our three chalets.

Once I have dropped the children off at childcare, the rest of my day will depend on whether I am cooking or not. For the last three years I have cooked a 4 course meal for up to 26 people 5 to 6 nights per week and in order to do this would need to start prep at midday. Whilst cooking, I would also be answering more emails and also phone calls from enquiring clients, guests who are staying in the chalet and might also from any of our 4 staff.

Guests would return to the chalet from skiing at about 4pm and along with the staff I would serve them afternoon tea with a home made cake and then a little later there would be Champagne and canapes in front of the fire. We would then serve dinner at about 7.30pm; evening service would finish at about 9.30/10pm and I would head home to catch up on a little more office work before bed.

Now that we have 3 chalets, I will be managing a team of 10 staff, planning the menus, checking guests in and out of the chalets and also handling the office work as well so I won’t be able to cook in the evenings as well. I hope to cook 1 night a week in La Ferme a Jules to keep my hand in but will also cook certain elements for all the chalets at home, such as stocks, sauces, ice creams, etc. as I want to keep the standard of food very high and it is extremely important to me that all food is cooked from scratch. The rest of the cooking I will entrust to the very talented three chefs that we have hired to replace me this season!

What do you enjoy most about what you do?

The cooking is definitely the thing I enjoy most – food is my absolute passion and obsession and I spend far too much time thinking about it! I always challenge myself to create new dishes that make the most of local and seasonal ingredients and try to deliver modern, sophisticated and delicious food so that the guests are always surprised with meals that they would never cook for themselves at home.

In addition to this I love to see our guests enjoying themselves; this is what drives me and makes all the long days worthwhile. I feel it is a big responsibility to be trusted with someone’s leisure time as everybody works so hard these days and I make sure that everyone in the AliKats team is on top of their game to deliver a perfect customer experience.

What would you say are the 3 best places you’ve ever stayed?

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in Banff – the setting is absolutely stunning with the bright green lake against the backdrop of snowy mountains and then the hotel itself is just beautiful. It’s extremely luxurious and manages to be grand, and cosy all at the same time. The rooms are extremely comfortable and I loved the personal touches such as freshly baked cookies delivered each day. The staff are excellent as well: courteous, helpful and knowledgeable whilst also being extremely friendly and not at all aloof which I have found some staff in high end hotels to be.

Feynan Eco Lodge, Dana Nature Reserve, Jordan – we stayed there in on our honeymoon and it is a really magical place. It is a simple but beautifully built eco hotel in the desert with architecture that reflects the surrounding landscape. The rooms feel like they are carved out of stone and are uncluttered but comfortable and there are lovely candle lit courtyards and terraces to relax in after a days hiking and exploring all the amazing nature that surrounds you. I loved it because it was unlike anywhere else I have ever been and was a complete escape from busy modern life – a place you could find serenity!

Sailing on a Gulet in Turkey – I spent a week’s holiday with my family, sailing on a gulet along some of the beautiful Turkish coast and we had the most incredible time. It was lovely to bob along over the aquamarine sea, stopping occasionally to sunbathe on a little hidden beach, snorkel with colourful shoals of fish and then get back on to the boat to eat a delicious lunch prepared by the chef. It was always freshly caught and barbecued fish and seafood with lots of olive oil and garlic and a selection of interesting salads – perfect summer food all washed down with cold beer or a glass of rose. At night time as it was so hot, we all slept on mattresses laid on the deck of the ship and I remember falling asleep looking up at stars spinning in the inky black sky – it was heaven!

What’s been your most memorable dining experience to date?

I’m afraid I can’t remember the name of the restaurant but it’s in the hills above Florence, tucked away up a long winding dirt track that I went to on a family holiday many years ago. We had been told about the restaurant by friends but thought we must be on a wild goose chase as it seemed to be so out of the way that we were surely lost. Eventually we found a beautifully rustic villa built in the local stone and covered in vines and had the most amazing meal. They brought beautifully marbled steaks for us to choose between and then cooked them perfectly over a charcoal barbecue. I had mine topped with thinly shaved porcini mushrooms and a little truffle oil and served alongside a mountain of crisp and golden finely cut chips and it was the best thing I have ever eaten! For me the best dining experiences always combine three things; delicious food, wonderful company and a stunning setting and that meal ticked all the boxes.

Have you rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous, either through your work or your travels?

Not recently, but many years ago I worked as a sales assistant in a high end boutique in the Fairmont Chateau Whistler in Whistler ski resort when I was doing a season there post university, and we had lots of celebrities coming in to look at the fur coats, including Heidi Klum & Seal, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears to name but a few. The only person I actually served though was George from Seinfeld, who is even shorter in real life but very polite!

What currently ranks highest on your travel wish list?

I really want to go to Noma in Copenhagen and try Rene Redzepi’s food for myself as it sounds incredible. I love the fact that all the food is sourced locally to most extreme level and by imposing this restriction he has created a completely original menu which is so different and exciting. Copenhagen is also supposed to be a very cool city which I would love to explore – living in the mountains does make me miss the buzz of a city on occasion!

Thank you for taking part in our interview, Kat. I liked your comment about it being a big responsibility to be trusted with someone’s leisure time given how hard people work nowadays and how precious time is – always keeping that in the back of your mind when catering for luxury travellers will certainly serve you well!

If you would like to be interviewed on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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