This post is the first installment of my culinary travel feature column, “The Accidental Chef Travels”. Come join me to discover all that’s delicious!
I think the best way to introduce myself is to begin with the basics. I grew up in an unusual family — part West Virginia hillbilly (we proudly hail from the mountainous coalfields) and part academic, since despite having a few economic and cultural cards stacked against us, the majority of my relatives as well as myself went on to receive advanced degrees, write books and teach university level courses. Go figure.
Because of this dichotomous existence, I’ve spent much of my life straddling the gray area, somewhere between cheesy grits and Chateaubriand. Yet, despite this oxymoron-esque lifestyle, one thing has remained constant — my love of worldly exploration and an inherent need to taste every last bit of it.
I still believe that the best place on earth is my grandmother’s kitchen in Princeton, West Virginia, where she, well into her upper-nineties, whipped up the best fried pies and coconut cake you’ve ever tasted. Yet, while granny’s comfort food remains unbeatable, I still spend my days infatuated with what the rest of the world has to offer.
Whether I’m noshing fresh-fried conch fritters at a roadside stand in the Turks and Caicos, nibbling blocks of Spam musubi while ogling the fresh Saturday morning produce at the Hilo Farmer’s Market or learning how to make Salade Gascogne (an explosion of poultry consisting of grilled duck breast, foie gras and duck confit) with chef/cookbook author Kate Hill in rural Southwest France, like many of you, I am compelled to taste my way across the globe, and I hope you’ll join me for this exciting and delicious ride.
It’s been said, that there are those of us who travel, and those of us who travel to eat. For gastronomes like myself, planning an entire vacation around what to eat and where is the norm. So for all of you food junkies out there, I plan to highlight an array of culinary activities such as cooking schools, food and wine immersion opportunities, food-focused resorts, cruises, even sustainable farm visits. And you can bet I won’t be leaving out off-the-beaten-track treasures such as backstreet markets, paper plate dives and mobile cart munchies. From truffle hunts to salmon fishing, I hope to bring you the best of what’s tasty and where.
I won’t be leaving out those who travel frequently for business or pleasure either, including folks who seek the very latest in restaurant news and reviews, both on the ground and in the air. For my “Mile High Dining Club” installments, I’ll cover the latest trends in taste, whether you’re kicking back in first-class or clutching your knees in coach.
For those looking to further their culinary travel education, I’ll be adding a “How-To” feature. From how to sniff and sip your way through Napa to avoiding an untimely death when eating Fugu, a Japanese pufferfish, I hope to share with you some great insider tips and tricks.
Bottom line? This column is going to fun, lots of fun, and I can’t wait for you to join me as we explore the many exciting tastes, textures and aromas that our world has to offer.