Entering the Level Lounge café in the Shangri-La Hotel's opulent lobby, I looked for celebrity chef Curtis Stone.

Since the Australian was voted one of the world's sexiest people in 2006 by People magazine, I was half expecting legions of fans waiting for a chance to ambush him for pictures and autographs. Instead, I was greeted by calm with music playing quietly in the background.

As I waited, I was told Stone was just finishing up a photo shoot and would arrive shortly.

"Sorry about that, let's go have a sit down in the lobby," Stone said, flashing an apologetic smile before leading me back to my original starting point.

"When I started cooking in Melbourne all those years ago, I didn't think I would be involved in all of this: the books, the television show, Gourmet Abu Dhabi. If I had known, I would have started much earlier!" he laughed.

"I love the fact that I get the chance to see different parts of the world. It's an amazing part of my job. This is the first time I've come to the Middle East [in a while] and I'm super-excited that I was able to come [here] and experience the culture," he added.

For Stone, Abu Dhabi is a fascinating mixture of modernity and tradition. "In Abu Dhabi, everything's so diverse; and its not just because of the cultural background but also because the city is so new - it feels like an ancient place but all the buildings have only been around for a little while, which is very interesting," he said.

"Everyone here is so friendly, it's been really nice. But to be perfectly honest, I was a little intimidated because I don't know much about the culture here and I didn't want to offend anyone.

"Australians are so rough around the edges. Maybe it's more of a personal thing, but I never like to go to a country where I can't speak the language and I wasn't sure how many people here speak English, but everyone here speaks it," he said.

Stone added that he was hoping to try some Emirati food and was surprised to learn that most Emirati food is cooked at home, so there aren't a lot of restaurants that provide the cuisine. Stone said that one day when he went to the fish market, he stumbled upon a small restaurant nearby.

"I went to a restaurant near the fish market that sells 'Emiratiri' [Emirati] food. We had a stew that was great!" he said. But he was quick to add that he had yet to have enough Emirati food and couldn't wait to sample the different dishes.

Stone said he enjoyed eating Middle Eastern food, despite having a less than perfect encounter with something he ate when he was in Egypt with friends a few years ago. "I tried some of the food and it was very tasty but then I got very sick so the last few days of my holiday were spent in a bad way."

But that hadn't discouraged him from trying to incorporate the food and cooking techniques into his kitchen. To Stone, every cultural interaction is a learning experience and there's always something new to try.

Because of his globe trotting lifestyle, you would expect Stone to have tried some pretty exotic dishes. When I asked him what was the most exotic thing he had ever tried, the answer was not what I was expecting. "I spent some time with the Aborigines in Australia in some really outback, remote places and I ate all sorts of grubs, worms and slugs - I don't encourage anyone to try that!" he said.

Over the past few years, celebrity chefs have become a trend, with many such as Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver and others with successful television shows, restaurants and cookbooks. But Stone seems to have bypassed the diva-like behaviour which often comes with being a celebrity.

"All my mates are the ones I grew up with and I wouldn't have it any other way. I can remember once when I was back in Australia and I said to this buddy who I hadn't seen for a while 'let's meet up in a pub'. As soon as we got there someone came up to me. I was trying to be nice and then another came up and before I knew it there was a queue of people. My buddy said, 'You can p*** off if you think I'm gonna sit here and watch you do a book signing.' I was only trying to be nice!"

However, Stone acknowledged that he has been lucky so far and that he was enjoying the fame as much as he can, because it could all stop tomorrow.

Vital statistics
Curtis Stone reveals his secrets

Date of birth: November 4, 1975
Height: 1.88m
Marital status: "Still single - Do you know anyone who's looking?"
One ingredient Curtis refuses to work with: "Coca Cola."
One ingredient that has to be in every kitchen: "Chocolate! I love chocolate."
Essential cookbook: "Larousse Gastronomique. I grew up in French restaurants."
Hobbies: "Surfing. I try to be in the water as much as I can! Also, I like to get my hands a bit dirty, like when I visit the fish market. I also love to try street food."
Pets: "No. I travel too much - but I would love to own a dog. I just looked into adopting one because I think it is the only way I can realistically have a pet. But then I'd have to give it back when I leave since I'm on the road for six months."