Finding role models in life can be tricky – in my experience, people just don’t live up to the hype. But Anton Mosimann is truly the real deal. From humble beginnings, grit, talent and hard-graft have seen him earn two Michelin stars, receive an OBE for his contribution to British food and inspire a whole generation of chefs. There’s also little he doesn’t know about the wonders of his home country.

‘Driving through Switzerland is just so special in so many ways’, Mosimann tells me. ‘It’s so versatile. You’ve got routes across mountain ranges and through valleys, roads along expansive mirror-like lakes. It’s a country of four different languages and cultures. A country of hospitality and quality, rustic food’. The renowned chef has also completed many rallies including the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge – which stretches over 8,500 miles.

We start the Grand Tour in the medieval town of Neuchatel, at the elegant Beau Rivage Hotel which sits right on the lake. It’s the ideal base from which to head into the Val-de-Travers valley and visit Fleurier (famous for Swiss watchmaking), Rousseau’s home in Motiers and also Couvet, where the bright green Post-Impressionist fuel – absinthe – was first distilled.

It’s the food from this region too that gets Anton animated: ‘big fillets of perch fresh from the lake’, ‘traditional boulangeries’, ‘local sausages’ and rich, Vacherin Mont d’Or – ‘a very well-respected cheese’. You’ll find a bounty of such local food at Hotel Baren in Twann; at 15, Anton did an apprenticeship here, and ironically it’s where his famously calm style was forged in the heat of the kitchen. ‘My head chef was a real gentleman but his number two was shouting and screaming all the time. I learnt how to do it and how not to do it and was lucky to experience both of them at a very young age’.

We follow the Grand Tour to Gruyere: a picture-perfect town complete with castle on the hill, but not before making a pitstop at Broc, home to the chocolate factory, Maison Cailler. The Swiss invented milk chocolate and Cailler was the first to use condensed milk rather than milk powder for a creamier texture. The quirky museum outlines the history and you can make chocolate bars too with Head Chocolatier, Geraldine Maras, (a world champion and one of Mosimann’s proteges).

Boot loaded with cheese and chocolate, we drive onwards to the Gstaad Palace. Famously popular with celebrities, the five-star hotel sits way above the treetops, with magical views from each romantic balcony. Mosimann worked here as a Commis Pastry Chef, despite having earned the coveted Chef de Cuisine Diploma which qualifies you to run a whole kitchen. ‘People thought I was mad’, he admits. ‘But most head chefs have a weakness and that’s the pastry. I wanted to be fully qualified in each section’.

The epic route snakes north towards Bern, taking in Interlaken, a town between two lakes and presided over by three mighty mountains. It’s a destination for hang gliding where the uninitiated (like me!) can do this in tandem, or simply watch from the terrace of the Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel. Mosimann’s wife, Kathryn, was once Head Housekeeper here and he’d drive over to see her in his ‘69 VW Beetle. ‘I’d throw stones at her window, then climb up on a ladder’. ‘Just for a kiss!, laughs Kathryn.

‘I love Bern by the way, so much tradition and history’, says Mosimann as we arrive and settle in for lunch at his choice of restaurant, Schwellenmatteli, by the turquoise Aare river. Switzerland’s capital city is famous for hearty food such as the Berner Platte (pork belly, beef tongue, saukerkraut and potato), and Mandelbarli, almond cakes made in the shape of the city’s emblem, the bear. It’s also known for being laid back; ‘The Swiss have watches but we have time’, the Bernese like to say, and Anton recommends the UNESCO World Heritage Old Town for a wander ‘whatever the weather’, thanks to the covered promenades.

It’s up in the nearby hills of the Emmental region though, where Mosimann once had a home, that your mind settles into a lake-like stillness. ‘It’s wonderful. So calming. So relaxing’, Anton promises, and advises us, ‘don’t drive too fast’, so we take it all in. Even the famous show dairy has a quaint village character, and as we explore the grounds, we’re accompanied by the soothing sound of alp horns, playing in the courtyard. Hotel Ludernalp is the best place to stay in Anton’s book. He’s celebrated many family occasions here and it’s stripped-back style makes you feel even more connected to the panoramic landscape. In the evening, all you hear is the distant chiming of cowbells.

‘In life you go from one extreme to the other very often’ and true to Anton’s words, we leave this hush for the hair-pin bends and rocky heights of the Grimselpass. Breathtaking is an overused word, but I mean it literally – even if you don’t have vertigo, you’ll be holding the steering wheel tight. Everywhere you look mountains rise up to the sky, and at the heart of it all sits the historic Grimsel Hospiz, where we fortify ourselves for the journey down. Mosimann orders Flammekueche, Alsace’s answer to pizza – thin and crisp.

Roads lead south through Leukerbad, where we rejoin the Grand Tour at Sion and drive alongside the sun-kissed, vineyards of the Valais, a region known for wine and Walliser Trockenfleisch, tasty air-dried beef. Switzerland only exports around 2% of its wine – it’s said the Swiss keep it for themselves! – so it’s worth stopping for a glass of cold Fendant and hot fondue, which Anton eats ‘cuisine naturelle’ style with blanched broccoli and mushrooms, rather than bread. Eventually, you’ll come to the shores of Lake Geneva in Bouveret, home to the Cesar Ritz Colleges and The Mosimann Collection.

‘It’s unusual to have a museum dedicated to you while you’re still alive’, Anton jokes, but visiting is strangely moving. It’s the result of a lifetime of work, showcasing menus for the royal family and politicians past, 270 black and white photographs of Mosimann with greats such as Mohammed Ali, even a collection of Swiss art. ‘Ooh la la!’ Anton’s eyes sparkle when I ask him what his highlight is and, modestly, doesn’t pick anything attributed to him. ‘There are some very old books, from the 1400s, 1500s’, he muses. ‘Even a cookbook that belonged to the Pope’s chef from 1570 – things you just don’t see anymore’.

But it’s Montreux where we end our journey, which Mosimann describes as ‘one of the nicest places in the whole world’. Home to the Chateau de Chillon, ‘the floating palace’ that’s inspired Delacroix to Byron, and a vibrant jazz festival each July, it’s the lasting vistas of the vineyards, snow mountains and (amazingly) palm trees that make it unique. Mosimann sums it up simply: ‘Every night the sunset’s different, and seeing that makes you feel good’.

They’ll be no sunset on Mosimann’s career as he continues to tirelessly inspire. And his legacy is more lasting, not only because of the extent of his achievements but also the style in which he’s made them: without bolsh, without swagger, or even a raised voice. I see him in all the landscapes we passed through – his calm exterior belies a monumental love and commitment to his art, like a placid lake against a tremendous mountain-ridged sky. Mosimann may well have shown us a way through Switzerland, but it’s also a fine way through life.

THE GRAND TOUR OF SWITZERLAND links Switzerland’s cultural and scenic highlights over a distance of more than 1,600 kilometres. The route leads over 5 Alpine passes, along 22 lakes and to 12 UNESCO World Heritage properties. The international access points are Basel, Geneva and Lugano; within Switzerland, motorists can begin the tour at any chosen point.