Where Would You Travel Just to Eat?

Where Would You Travel Just to Eat?It’s a question that comes up again and again. Even more so in the last few years, as the industrialized world seems to become food obsessed. Not just with eating in general but also where it comes from (is it local?) and how it’s grown. Our preoccupation with provenance is almost an existential crisis: it seems we have this growing need (no pun intended) to touch our food, to get closer to it, because technology is alienating us in an unprecedented way.

And so now, more than ever, we’re traveling just to satisfy that craving – a simple desire and a deeper one. Okay, this is getting way too serious. The point is, when I attended a couple food-centric events recently for the Lucky Rice Festival and the James Beard Awards, both in New York, I asked the participating chefs and mixologists the question: where would you travel just to eat? Not surprisingly many of them were looking to Japan and Spain for their inspiration.

Here’s how they all answered:

•Ted Allen, author of “In My Kitchen: 100 Recipes and Discoveries for Passionate Cooks
I’d go to Tokyo. I was there once – just for three days and I ate at a workingman’s place that was just great. It’s one of the world’s great cuisines.

•Chai Chaowasaree, chef/owner of Chai’s Island Bistro and Singha Thai Cuisine, Honolulu
New York. Wait! I think I’d go to Las Vegas. All the top chefs are there. I’ve been there over 100 times. The restaurant I would go to frequently was 808 but, sadly, it closed. I also really like eating at Joel Robuchon and Michael Mina’s place.

•Garrett Eagleton, the Beagle, New York City
Vietnam. It’s so different from anything else and I love pho. It would be a cheap and amazing food adventure.

•Vikram Garg, chef at Halekulani, Honolulu
That’s a very challenging question. I think I’d go to Spain. It’s all about the ingredients. Plus Spanish chefs are so progressive and so ahead of the time. In terms of where I’d go, I’d call up my chef friends – Ferran (Adria) and Jose Andres – and they’d tell me where I should go. It wouldn’t have to be Michelin-starred restaurants.

•Stephanie Izard, executive chef at Girl & the Goat, Chicago
India. I’m not exactly sure where I’d go but I’ve been reading a lot about Indian cuisine lately and it just sounds great.

•Matt Lambert, chef at Madame Geneva, New York City
I’d go to Bangkok. Specifically I’d eat at David Thompson’s place Nham. He’s doing some really special stuff over there, including reintroducing some heirloom vegetables to the Thai food landscape. He’s a really great chef.

•Joseph Lenn, chef at Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN
Spain. They’re doing some of the most creative food there right now. I’d check out Etxebarri, near San Sebastian, as well as Mugaritz.

•Paul Qui, executive chef at Uchiko, winner of “Top Chef Texas,” Austin
San Sebastian. It has the most Michelin-starred restaurants in Spain. I’d hit up Mugaritz and Arzak, for sure. I’m sad I wouldn’t be able to head down to elBulli anymore.

•Julie Reiner, mixologist at Lani Kai, New York City
Japan. I love Japanese food. It would be interesting to eat in such an authentic way. I think I’d eat mostly sushi.

•Steve Schneider, bartender at Macao Trading Co. and Employees Only, New York City
I’d go to Peru and eat anticuchos, a meat stew that a lot of slaves and Chinese laborers used to eat. I’d just eat this and at the same restaurant every day. It’s so good.

•Alan Wong, chef/owner of Alan Wong’s, Honolulu
Japan. Specifically, I’d go to Hakaido. I love it there. They actually have dairy there – milk and cheese – and it’s really good. The seafood is abundant. The ingredients and cuisine are very inspiring to me. I’d spend a lot of time at an onsen relaxing and eating.

•Roy Yamaguchi, chef/owner of Roy’s, multiple locations
Japan. I’d go to an onsen in Hakone, which is about an hour from Tokyo. I’d take a hot spring bath and then eat a meal based on all the fresh seasonal ingredients that are available.