Where Would You Travel for a Meal?

Where Would You Travel for a Meal? Just what motivates us to travel? What exactly inspires us to get on a plane and, thousands of miles later, blurry eyed and sleep deprived, to step into a place that was hitherto unknown to us? I’d be willing to guess that for an increasingly large amount of leisure travelers, “food” might be near the top of the list.

Last week, hundreds of hungry people attended the Lucky Rice Festival in New York City, an annual weeklong feast of all things Asian and eating. During the “Grand Feast,” where a couple dozen chefs served up Asian-inspired snacks and curious cocktails (a martini spiked with a whole baby squid, anyone?) in a large Mandarin Oriental hotel ballroom overlooking Central Park, I put my hypothesis to the test. I asked some of the chefs at the festival – many of whom are New York City’s most esteemed toques – to answer one simple question:

Where would you travel for a meal?

“Malaysia. I’m fascinated with the growth and interest in Southeast Asian food. Thre are so many undiscovered foods there that we in America have not even discovered yet. I’d also eat my way through the spice route.”
-Todd English
Celebrity chef, owner of umpteen restaurants

“I would say Morocco. I’m fascinated with spices. I’d like to have a local, say, in Marakesh, take me to the food and spice market and from there we’d construct an entire meal out of what we buy.”

-Angelo Sosa
Top Chef alum (season seven)
Executive Chef, Social Eatz

“Thailand. I’d just travel around the country and eat everything I saw. I did that when I was in France and it was great. I’d try to find new stuff, food that hasn’t really come here yet, food that’s unknown to us.”

-Eric Hara
Executive Chef at 9 Restaurant and Pier 9

“Vietnam. I’ve always wanted to go there. The country’s culinary history is amazing. There’s a long story behind every dish there. From a chef’s perspective, Vietnam would be great.”

-Brandon Kida
Chef de Cuisine, Asiate

“I would go to Portland, Oregon. I was just there, actually, and now I already want to go back. The food and restaurants there are incredible. The people are willing to do interesting and creative things with food there. They’re doing their own coffee, their own distilling. There’s just a lot going on in Portland.”

-Brad Farmerie
Executive Chef, Public

“Well, India for sure. But I’d also go to San Francisco. It’s such a great food city. I’d go there and focus eating California cuisine.”

-Hemant Mathur
Executive Chef, Tulsi

“Apart from just staying here in New York City, I’d go to Bangkok. Specifically, I’d go to David Thompson’s new restaurant. It’s called Nahm, which means ‘water’ in Thai, in the Metropolitan Hotel. I trained under him and I haven’t eaten at any of his restaurants since he left Australia. After that, there would be a thousand more restaurants I’d eat at.”

-Ty Bellingham
Executive Chef, Kittichai

“Kerala, India. The food there is extremely fresh. If you want an oyster, for example, there’s a guy who will jump into the water right then and get one for you. It’s a such a great place. There’s no judgment there. And they have a 99 percent literacy rate.”

-Jehangir Mehta
Executive Chef, Graffiti and Mehtaphor

“Paris. Just to see Jean Francios Piege. I ate at his previous restaurant, which was in Hotel de Crillon, and it was one of those meals where it makes you stop and think about what food is all about. He has a new restaurant called Hotel Thoumieux.”

-Tien Ho
Executive Chef, Ma Peche

“Definitely Tokyo. I love Japanese food. I would get recommendations from friends. I love sushi and would go to the fish market to eat there.”

-Damien Hergott
Pastry Chef, Bosie Tea Room

“Taipei. There’s a great night market there and the best Japanese food outside of Japan. The best Chinese fusion. Plus, the food scene is really diverse.”

-Ching-He Huang
Chef & TV Personality, UK Food Channel

“elBulli. If I could get one of the last seatings there before it closed. The last time I was in Spain, I ate at almost every important restaurant, but I didn’t get to eat at elBulli.”

-Dale Talde
Top Chef alum (season 4)
Creative Director, Buddakan