When we’re back from a trip, it’s only natural we pine for the sights, smells, and flavors that distinguished it. We often wish we could recreate those experiences back home (especially when we designed the trip specifically for the restaurants where we wanted to eat). Lucky for most professional chefs, they can: if they just have the right ingredients.
We asked some of our favorite celebrity toques to tell us the foods that are so special they would book a flight and hop on a plane to hunt them down—and we got some interesting answers. Globally, it’s a feast: rice from Japan; sea urchin from coastal Italy; foie gras from Spain; fried chicken from the streets of Seoul; tequila. We’ve all got a special dish or ingredient (even, in a few cases, drink) that we would gladly travel for, and this group is no different.
For some of them, their must-have nosh is a specific food that helps curate the perfect flavor in a recipe, which is the case for Paul Qui, of Qui Restaurant and East Side King in Austin. For others, like George Mendes of Aldea, it’s a matter of tracking down a type of authentic cuisine that can only be found—or perhaps best enjoyed—at the source.
Sometimes, a familial tie to the dish or ingredient is what makes it worth the trip, like the connection that Zoi Antonitsas of Top Chef has with her family’s classic Greek recipes that come from the island of Skiathos, in the northwest Aegean Sea. When it comes to quality ingredients, these chefs are not messing around, and they know where to source the best of them. Let their travel-worthy choices provide inspiration for your next meal—or maybe even your next big trip.