Top Chef Masters: On Dream Trips and Carry-On Must-Haves

Posted by Kathleen Squires on August 01, 2012 at 5:00:58 PM EDT | Post a Comment

Though they are often saddled behind a stove for most of their careers, chefs are known for having acute wanderlust. Not only do they spend years working abroad to master a cuisine, they often travel to brush up on the world's culinary trends. Last week in Las Vegas, a slew of chefs flew in for the season 4 premiere of Top Chef Masters. We caught up with them on the red carpet at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to talk travel.

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Kerry Heffernan

Contestant, season 4, Top Chef Masters, and executive chef at South Gate Restaurant, New York

Q: If you could get on a plane right now for a dream meal, where would you go?

A: Paris. It is definitely my favorite food destination, without question. The last great meal I had there was at Guy Savoy but I would hop on a plane to eat at some of the smaller, more intimate restaurants there, too.

Q: Is there one trip in your life that had the biggest impact on your palate?

A: My first trip to Paris had the biggest impact on my palate. I was 17, riding my bicycle from London to wherever, and I ended up in Paris. I actually had the impression that I was going to work at the Tour D'Argent, which didn't happen. But I ate incredible meals that I will never forget.

Q: What do you stash in your carry-on bag in case of hunger emergency when you travel?

A: 5-hour Energy shots.

Q: When you're road-tripping in the US, which food do you pull over for?

I pull over for fried chicken or chicken-fried steak.

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Art Smith

Contestant season 1 and season 4, Top Chef Masters, and chef/owner Southern Art restaurants

Q: If you could get on a plane right now and dine anywhere in the world, where would it be?

A: My favorite food destination in the world is Italy. I just returned from three weeks there. We lived in a 12th century village and the local people brought us fresh vegetables, fresh farm eggs and wild boar. It was wonderful because it was the first trip I took that there wasn't a need to eat in a restaurant because I was enjoying cooking all of these great gifts!

Q: When you're road-tripping in the US, which food do you pull over for?

A: I pull over for hot dogs. I am a huge hot dog person.

Q: Do you collect any kitchen tools when you travel?

A: I love mortars. I have mortars from all over the world—Scandinavia, Asia, the Mediterranean.

Q: What do you stash in your carry-on bag in case of hunger emergency?

A: I eat at really strange hours so I make my own protein shake mix and carry it with me. When you are traveling and you don't move so much, it's great to have a protein drink.

Q: Which trip in your life has impacted your palate the most?

A: One of the most amazing trips that affected my palate, along with my heart, was opening up a school with Oprah in South Africa. A lot of the food there was like food that I love because it is very homespun. But there is also this incredible variety of foods to choose from. In the Cape there are amazing wines, and I loved South Africa's wild meats.

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David Myers

Chef/owner Comme Ça, Los Angeles, and Comme Ça Las Vegas

Q: If you could get on a plane right now and dine anywhere in the world, where would it be?

A: Sushi Shin in Tokyo, one of the top sushi restaurants in the world, in my opinion. Then I wouldn't stop there—I'd go to Next in Chicago, because I love what Grant Achatz does and I've always had an incredible experience there. Then I'd go on to the Maldives, but more for the beautiful surfing waves than for the local food.

Q: Which trip in your life has impacted your palate the most?

A: Travel to Japan has impacted my palate the most. Tokyo is the culinary capital of the world in my opinion. There are more Michelin stars there than anywhere else in the world, and the variety of cuisine there is enormous. But what I really love is the traditional focus, care and intensity that the chefs put into the craft as true artists.

Q: When you're road-tripping in the US, which food do you pull over for?

A: In terms of road food, if I'm down South, I want barbecue. If I'm going up the California coast, I want to stop by Neptune's Net and get some fried shrimp and Dungeness crab and sit across the street and watch the surfers. And if I am in the Midwest, I just want a great burger.

Top Chef Masters airs on Wednesdays 10pm ET/PT, 9pm CT on Bravo.

Photo credits: Paris rooftops via Shutterstock; Art Smith courtesy of Hernan F. Rodriguez; Tokyo street via Shutterstock

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