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The World's Most Influential Chefs On Their Favorite Foodie Finds

Condé Nast Traveler logo Condé Nast Traveler 2/8/2019 Fiona Kerr
a close up of a yellow wall: Sea snail salad at his new Noma in Copenhagen. © Jason Loucas Sea snail salad at his new Noma in Copenhagen.

If you're lucky enough to have eaten at René Redzepi's legendary Noma restaurant, or Skye Gryngell's Spring in London, there's a good chance you're still talking about the meal. So we wondered: What are the unforgettable food experiences these chefs rave about to their friends? With this in mind, we asked Redzepi, Gryngell, Yotam Ottolenghi, and seven other legendary chefs to share the food finds they're proudest of.

Rene Redzepi standing next to a body of water: René Redzepi. © Murdo McLeod René Redzepi.

RENÉ REDZEPI

*It has a new Copenhagen home, but Noma remains the most famous restaurant to open anywhere in the past 15 years.*

Cod from Greenland: "I will never forget the first time I ate a 55-pound codfish from the icy waters of a town called Ilulissat. It was like biting into a piece of lobster, with that meatiness and texture on your teeth—I’ve never had a piece of cod like that before, and it will always be the cod of my life.”

Honeypot ants from Australia: "This ant is basically the living food supply for the rest of the colony. They live off other insects and any greenery, and then process the food into a liquid that is stored for the rest of the group. They look like perfect little blueberries, and that sweet mouthful is unforgettable.”

Chicken broth from Copenhagen: “My wife and I roast a chicken every Sunday, and from the bones we cook a big pot of stock that we drink during the week. It’s flavored with chicken-wing garum, a liquid that tastes a bit like all those sticky bits you find at the bottom of the roasting dish.”

Habanero chile from Mexico: “This chile has a fruitiness that’s similar to a bell pepper, and it’s that vegetable note, with the heat, that I’ve never found in any other. When Noma popped up in Tulum, I would chop these chilies straight into lemon juice and then sprinkle it onto roast pork.”

Yuzu from Japan: “This is, hands down, the most unique citrus flavor. The juice is lemony, but the peel is aromatic and fragrant, and really doesn’t compare to anything else. It’s so distinct, it’s instantly recognizable.”

a man looking at the camera: Chef Joan Roca. © Per-Anders J​ö​rgensen Chef Joan Roca. a piece of cake on a table: A fish dish at El Cellar de Can Roca in Girona. © Salva Lopez A fish dish at El Cellar de Can Roca in Girona.

JOAN ROCA

*The eldest of the trio of brothers whose El Celler de Can Roca is Spain’s greatest dining destination since El Bulli*.

Sea anemone from Costa Brava: “The sea-urchin population on our Spanish coast has severely decreased over the years, so we’ve started using a local sea anemone instead. It has such a brilliant and intense oceanic flavor, it’s like a cross between a sea urchin and an oyster.”

Piura Porcelana cocoa beans from Peru: “Grown in wild regions of northern Peru, this white cocoa bean has the most refreshing flavor of any cocoa I’ve tasted. It’s not bitter at all, but there’s a playful sour note, and it makes a rich, buttery chocolate.”

Hormigas culonas from Colombia: “These translate as ‘ants with a large ass.’ I came across them during our restaurant’s first world tour. They’re rare and quite expensive, but a great snack—salty with an umami hit.”

Passion fruit from Thailand: “You can get passion fruit all over the world nowadays, but the ones I tried just outside Chiang Mai are a stunning combination of sweetness and acidity, the finest I’ve ever tasted.”

Jamón ibérico from Andalucía: “This cured ham from Sierra de Aracena, in southern Spain, has the perfect balance of fat marbling. It’s my brother Jordi’s favorite thing in the world. He used to eat it in secret until my mother caught him, age 9, spoiling an impeccable flat cut as he attempted to slice the leg on his own.”

a person standing in front of a window: At Spring restaurant. © John Carey At Spring restaurant.

SKYE GYNGELL

*After earning a Michelin star, the London-based Australian is on a mission to cut food waste at her new venture, Heckfield Place.*

Cocoa pod from San Francisco: “Before opening Spring, at Somerset House in London, I took a research trip to San Francisco and bought a cocoa pod from Dandelion Chocolate, a bean-to-bar factory and café in the Mission District, and decided it should be our lucky charm.”

Candied chestnuts from Genoa: “These are my favorite sweet treats in the world—one of the things I look forward to most about autumn. The ones from Pietro Romanengo fu Stefano are the best I’ve ever tasted: not too sweet and with a very pure flavor.”

Custard molds from the Barossa Valley: “I found these copper molds—one a lobster, the other a pineapple—in an antiques shop near Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop, outside Adelaide. I’ve rarely used them, but I love the way they look, and they remind me of a very happy weekend.”

Confit jar from the Languedoc: “When I was teaching in the area years ago, I picked up a lovely old confit jar from a brocante. It still sits on a shelf in my kitchen. It always startles me that something so practical can be so beautiful at the same time.”

Murray River Salt from Victoria: “I can never come back from Australia without putting a bag of this delicate salt in my suitcase. It always makes me think of home.”

a man standing in front of a brick wall: Virgilio Martí​nez. © Jimena Agois Virgilio Martí​nez. a close up of text on a black surface: Dishes using Peruvian ingredients from Martínez’s restaurant Central. © Jimena Agois Dishes using Peruvian ingredients from Martínez’s restaurant Central.

VIRGILIO MARTÍNEZ

A pioneer of Andean ingredients, his latest restaurant, Mil, in Peru, is located 11,500 feet above sea level.

Maras salt from the Sacred Valley: “I spend a lot of my time in Peru tracking down new ingredients. Maras, between Cuzco and Machu Picchu, has been famous for its salt-evaporation ponds since the Incas. It’s known for its intense flavor—I add it to dried airampo fruit.”

A New Napa Cuisine cookbook from California: “Last year I went to cook at Christopher Kostow’s Meadowood restaurant. I’ve always been curious about Napa Valley cooking—starting out, I was looking at books from chefs like Thomas Keller. But this is avant-garde, mixing a modern French approach with ultra-local, farm-to-table ingredients.”

Small crêpe sauté pan from E. Dehillerin in Paris: “This shop in the center of Paris is crammed with all sorts of beautiful small pots and pans. I take a little frying pan with me everywhere—I can make a fire and cook anything on it when I’m camping or traveling.”

Shun Cutlery bread knife from Tokyo: “The Japanese do the best knives, and a chef I worked with at my restaurant Central, in Lima, gave me one when he came back from a trip. I’ve never experienced such a sharp bread knife—it slips through loaves like butter.”

Granadilla juice from the Andes: “There are 16 or 17 types of passion fruit in Peru, but the granadilla is a very sweet one. I love its structure and the way you open it with your hands. For one glass of juice you need about 15 of them!”

a man and a woman standing in front of water: Francis Mallmann. © John Kernick Francis Mallmann.

FRANCIS MALLMANN

With a reach that extends from Patagonia to Provence via Miami, the Argentinian king of fire is fueling the art of flame-grilling.

Sweetbreads from Argentina: “Mollejas, as we call them in Spanish, come from the thymus gland of young cattle and are the most delicious part of a cow. The best, of course, are from animals reared in Argentina and must be slowly grilled on charcoal with lemon to turn them into delicious, crunchy little nuggets.”

Ancho Reyes liqueur from Puebla, Mexico: “This spicy, smoky-sweet drink is made from the area’s famous ancho chile, which is steeped in sugarcane spirit. Drink it at midnight beside a bonfire, holding the hand of a beautiful friend.”

Wild-fennel pollen from Tuscany: “Before grilling my pig cuts, I rub them with this pollen while listening to Alfredo Catalani’s La Wally opera and his aria ‘Ebben? Ne Andrò Lontana,’ sung by Maria Callas. It’s been a treasured ingredient in Tuscany for centuries.”

Chateau Musar wine from Lebanon: “I am always on the lookout for the 1967 vintage from the Hochar family vineyard in Ghazir, Bekaa Valley. I like to think you can taste the lust and pride of the hills of this ancient country in every sip of the elegant wine, which is mostly made with cabernet sauvignon grapes.”

Varieties of rice from Vietnam : “On my way from Hanoi to Halong Bay, I bought a bag of traditional ‘floating rice’ seeds, which are grown in the acid-sulfate-and-saline soil of the flooded fields of the Mekong Delta. Floating rice has a very long stem that keeps it above the water’s surface. It makes for a unique taste.”

a man wearing a black shirt: André Chiang. © Per-Anders J​ö​rgensen André Chiang.

ANDRÉ CHIANG

*The French-trained Taiwanese chef’s Restaurant

Restaurant ANDRE

in Singapore was voted number two in Asia.*

Charcoal from Japan: “I have to admit, I get a kick out of charcoal. It’s black, hot, and sexy. I’m obsessed with cooking on it, and the ultimate happiness would be if I could just eat it neat. I use charcoal to infuse oils and bake bread—and as a base for laksa soup.”

Seawater from the Atlantic Ocean: “Unlike sweet things, salt is underrated by a lot of people. I feel it has so many dimensions, and you can really appreciate it when using seawater. I source mine off the coast of Brittany and use it to cook, cure, marinate, clarify, and make jelly.”

Yakitori from Osaka: “This traditional Japanese skewered chicken is slow-grilled over fire. At a secret spot in Osaka, called Ichimatsu, there are only 12 seats, and you’re served by chef Hideto Takeda, whose grilling technique is perfection.”

Soy sauce from Taipei: “I probably love soy sauce because I love salt. The best is made with anchovies and other fish as well as soybeans. I met a guy in Taiwan whose recipe is beautiful. His family have been making it for 150 years, but sadly they only make enough for locals.”

Porcelain from Arita: “Arita was the first place in Japan to produce porcelain, about 400 years ago. The ideal way to understand the beauty of Japanese ceramics is to visit the town. Pottery has been a passion of mine since I was a child, and if I wasn’t a chef, I would definitely be a ceramist.”

Raspberry lollipops by Ottolenghi. © Peden and Munk Raspberry lollipops by Ottolenghi. Yotam Ottolenghi standing in front of a wall: Yotam Ottolenghi. © John Carey Yotam Ottolenghi.

YOTAM OTTOLENGHI

His new take on Middle Eastern fare has changed global tastes through ingredients that are fresh, bright, and unexpected.

Biber salcasi red chili paste from Istanbul: “You can be pretty liberal with this paste. It’s not as spicy as harissa but is way more punchy than passata. It’s a real cheat ingredient and is brilliant stirred through scrambled eggs. I stock up on it at the Eminönü Egyptian spice bazaar in Istanbul.”

Brûlée tart from Sydney: “Bourke Street Bakery is my first stop when I’m visiting the city. Its fresh ginger crème brûlée tarts are perfection. Runny spiced custard, brittle caramel, and a light, crisp pastry. The secret is the high proportion of water in the dough.”

Sausage Rolls from London: “The ones from the Ginger Pig are irresistible. I like to sneak a couple into the picnic bag when we’re heading to the park. The pastry is buttery and flaky, the sausage herby and rich.”

Mechoui from Marrakech: “I’d been told that I had to order this dish from the restaurant Al Fassia in advance, and thank goodness for the tip. The slow-roasted lamb, cooked in their all-women kitchen, was beyond melt-in-the-mouth perfection.”

Vietnamese pancakes from Hanoi: “Eating outside always makes food taste better, and I love the central garden at Quán Ăn Ngon in Hanoi. There’s a massive menu with all sorts of Asian flavors, but the Vietnamese bánh xèo pancakes have to be my favorite.”

a person standing in front of a store: Ruthie Rogers. © Ruthie Rogers Ruthie Rogers.

RUTHIE ROGERS

Known for being low-key but entirely glamorous, her restaurant, The River Cafe, still leads the London restaurant game after 32 years.

Fritto misto from Vernazza : “My very good friend Gianni Franzi owns a restaurant on the Ligurian coast, and the dish I always order is fritto misto, with squid, shrimp, and anchovies. It’s so light because it is made with hardly any flour. An instant reminder that you’ve arrived at the seaside.”

Couscous from Morocco: “Once a year I go to Marrakech, where I love the couscous—a simple vegetable version with carrots, leeks, and harissa is the best. Le Jardin and Terrasse des Épices are my top restaurants in the city.”

Salted anchovies from Northern Spain: “These are a real staple in Italian cooking and a major seasoning ingredient. They’re brilliant in a simple pasta dish, on top of a Dover sole. I buy them from Conservas Ortiz—they’re caught on a rod and line from the Bay of Biscay.”

Lentils from Le Puy, France: “At the River Café we cook with Italian Castelluccio lentils, but at home we have Puy. In the summer, I add mozzarella, olive oil, and herbs, and in the winter, beef and mustard. I love their very nutty taste.”

Olive oil from Chianti: “Every November we take a group of chefs to Italy to see the olive oil being made for the café. We have four different producers, in Chianti and just outside Florence. It’s possibly the most important ingredient, and we import thousands and thousands of bottles per year.”

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