- INSIDER spoke with 10 celebrity chefs to find out the best meal they ever had.
- “Chopped” judge Alex Guarnaschelli loved the pesto pasta at La Merenda in Nice, France.
- Her co-“Chopped” judge Scott Conant went with the chicken and rice platter from halal street carts in New York City.
We asked 10 famous celebrity chefs from the Food Network and beyond about the best meal they ever had. Their answers ranged from three Michelin-starred meals in France to simple street food in New York City.
Keep scrolling to find out which restaurants and meal experiences floored some of the biggest names in the food industry.
Alex Guarnaschelli said the pesto pasta at La Merenda in Nice, France, was an “ethereal meal” that changed her life.
“La Merenda has stools and communal tables, no phone, no reservations, and doesn’t accept credit cards,” Alex Guarnaschelli, judge on “Chopped” and chef/owner of New York City’s Butter told INSIDER. “It is truly about hospitality and great flavours […] It was an ethereal meal that changed my life. Especially the pasta. The pasta being dropped on the hot pesto in front of me made me tear up. It was that good. And so simple.”
Marc Murphy favours an Istanbul street food called kokorec: bread-wrapped lamb intestine.
“I was in Istanbul a few years ago and tried their traditional street food called kokorec, which is flame-roasted lamb intestine wrapped in fresh soft bread, drizzled in olive oil and amazing Turkish spices,” Marc Murphy, judge on “Chopped” and chef/owner of Landmarc in New York City, said. “The combination is mouthwatering and is worth the trip alone!”
Scott Conant’s favourite meal is chicken and rice with white sauce from a New York City halal street cart.
“Chicken and rice from halal carts is one of my favourite New York City dishes,” Scott Conant, “Chopped” judge and owner of Fusco in New York City said. “It’s almost the perfect combination. The rice absorbs the great depth of flavour from the chicken and it creates something homey and comforting. I love the white sauce and the extra hot sauce. This dish not only speaks to New York City as an incredible melting pot of cultures, but the convenience of it is what makes us all go back for it again and again.”
Ray “Dr. BBQ” Lampe said his last meal would be the cheese and sausage pizza from Villa Nova in Stickney, Illinois.
“This is the perfect pizza with a crispy tasty crust, a light layer of sauce, fresh fennel-laced sausage and stretchy mozzarella cheese,” pitmaster and barbecue expert Ray “Dr. BBQ” Lampe said. There’s a big misunderstanding about Chicago pizza with the world thinking we all eat deep dish pizza regularly. The truth is Chicagoans eat crispy thin crust pizza […] most of the time.”
Fabio Viviani always orders the black cod with miso from Nobu Malibu.
“The cod is so delicious, moist, and tender, and I will always remember the first time I tasted it,” Fabio Viviani, celebrity chef and “Top Chef” alum said. “This dish is copied by many chefs now and I can understand why. I try and stop by Nobu when I’m in town, and when I do I always order the black cod.”
Curtis Stone thought that the chuleton (Spanish steak) from Restaurante Alameda in Rioja, Spain, was “simply perfect.”
“I’ve just returned from Spain for a research trip with my team from Maude,” “Top Chef Masters” alum and owner of Maude in Beverly Hills, California, Curtis Stone said. “[…] Along the way, we had so many incredible meals – but the chuleton (steak) from Alameda in Fuenmayor has stuck with me. The meat is from Galicia and the balance of beef and fat was just perfect.”
Donatella Arpaia loves the imbustata “envelope” pasta from Cellini in New York City.
“I have literally eaten at all the best places in the world,” “Iron Chef America” judge Donatella Arpaia said. “But my most memorable is Cellini restaurant. The focaccia and signature pasta, the imbustata – a baked envelope pasta stuffed with chicken shiitake in a creamy vodka sauce – complete with their ricotta cheesecake is classic old school Italian [cuisine] done right.”
Seamus Mullen recommends “anything and everything” at Etxebarri in Axpe, Spain.
“The best meal I’ve ever had was at a restaurant called Etxebarri in Axpe, Spain,” celebrity chef and author of “Real Food Heals” Seamus Mullen said. “They’re true masters of the grill, celebrating each ingredient they use by simply and beautifully preparing it over an open fire. For anyone travelling there, I’d recommend anything and everything they’re grilling that day. I still dream about the grilled baby eel, scarlet prawns, 12-year old ox steaks, saffron milkcap mushrooms, snails, and turbot [flatfish native to the North Atlantic Ocean].”
David Burke called every dish from the tasting menu at Maison Troisgros in Roanne, France, “sexy [and] untouchable.”
“[…] All of the dishes were exquisite, sexy, untouchable, and exciting as hell. I will never forget the inspiration that meal gave me and that I felt on the train ride afterwards. That day was priceless.”
The tasting menu includes oysters with julienned pickled vegetables, foie gras, salmon with sorrel, pigeon with cabbage chestnuts and lardon, crepe soufflé with passion fruit, and jasmine tea crème brûlée.
Maneet Chauhan “is obsessed with” the sesame golden eggs at Tànsuǒ in Nashville, Tennessee.
“I am obsessed with the golden eggs at Tànsuǒ,” Maneet Chauhan, “Chopped” judge and chef at Chauhan Ale & Masala House in Nashville, Tennessee, said. “The unexpected experience from the crunchiness of the sesame seed to the chewiness that you get from the rice flour. The filling is amazing as well: the umami from the mushroom filling is so satisfying and I just love the silken tofu.”
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