Imagine flying off to Périgord, France, to taste-test truffles or to Memphis to try 30 different permutations of the barbecued-pork sandwich. Such trips are all part of the hard-luck life of chefs and other culinary professionals. Food pros routinely traverse the globe in search of new taste experiences--without their journeys, how could they discover the best uses for Lebanese mulberry syrup, for example, or the most delicious way to prepare camel? Food & Wine asked seven notable epicurean travelers to share the details of a Recent trip and tell us where they dream of going next.
rick bayless EXECUTIVE CHEF, TOPOLOBAMPO AND FRONTERA GRILL, CHICAGO
Recent trip Thailand. Best discovery "I was thrilled by the vitality of the street food in Bangkok--everything from catfish curry with Thai eggplant to perfect coconut-custard tarts." Most surprising moment "I found out, accidentally, that there is sugar in all the salt shakers in Thailand." Most anticlimactic meal Eating fried grubs in the northern city of Chiang Mai (Bayless had had similar meals in Mexico). Most controversial edible The durian, a prickly, basketball-size fruit banned on some airlines because of its smell: "a cross between Limburger cheese and very ripe raisiny fruit." Bayless's hotel sported a sign in the lobby picturing a durian with a red slash through it. Cross-cultural tie-in An expert on Mexican cuisine, Bayless proclaimed Thailand the "Mexico of Asia" because of the similarly complex street food, the freshness of the ingredients and the general preference for slow-cooked dishes. Future destination Back to Thailand, "to continue to learn about a whole new palette of flavors."
rose grayco EXECUTIVE CHEF, THE RIVER CAFE, LONDON
Recent trip Norway. "It was unpopulated, clean and warm." (Warm? Well... maybe compared to London.) Most eye-opening experience Visiting a Norwegian salt-cod factory. "The smell was memorable." Proustian moment The fjords reminded Gray of childhood vacation spots on the coast of Scotland. Post-travel literary purchase "I rushed out to buy Mark Kurlansky's book Cod." Future destination "I want to go to Capri, simply because I've never been there." Foods to try "Capri's salads and fabulous greens." Travel credo "I go to places I know will inspire my craft."