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How to Travel Like a Rising Star Chef

The 2019 semifinalists dish on their favorite global food destinations

Frank Guerriero

April 09, 2019


Photo: Amy Pezz Photography

While millennials have been accused of “killing” such industries as mayonnaise, paper napkins, and diamonds over the last few years, news outlets have also noticed their affinity for spending more than other generations on travel experiences. In this spirit, we asked the culinary wünderkinds nominated for this year’s James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef of the Year to tell us about their favorite dining destinations. From tracking down authentic New Orleans po’ boys to sampling ceviche in its native Peru, the young guns driving the country’s most innovative kitchens couldn’t wait to sing the praises of their favorite food cities, and their responses are sure to excite your culinary wanderlust.


Rachel Bennett, The Library, St. Petersburg, FL (pictured above)
My favorite food destination is Denver, Colorado, and my favorite restaurant there is a place called Acorn. My go-to order is the duck confit pastrami sandwich with black garlic and kohlrabi.

Photo: Devon Michael Coco

Ana Castro, Coquette, New Orleans
Mexico, without a doubt! Every time I go back home to Mexico City I get a reminder of why I cook—the honesty of the food and the genuinely warm hospitality. It's very hard to narrow it down to one thing, so I will give you two answers. The first thing I do when I arrive, besides going to see my grandparents, is get a gordita especial from Carnitas Alfonso and load it up with cilantro and salsa verde. Now, if I had to choose the single best thing I have ever eaten in Mexico, and one of the best bites of my life, it would be the uni tetela at Pujol.

Photo: FujifilmGirl

Valerie Chang and Nando Chang, Itamae, Miami
Valerie: My favorite food destination is San Sebastian, Spain. It is heaven for anyone who really enjoys food. I love it the most because of the incredible products and simplicity that you find in the cooking there. My absolute favorite stop is Ganbara—the txakolina is flowing and the countertops inside the bar are covered with plates and plates of delicious pintxos, as well as some of the amazing seasonal produce. The dish that I cannot get enough of is the Hongos a la Plantxa: seasonal local mushrooms, simply grilled on the plantxa and served with this beautiful raw egg yolk in the middle of the plate. This is the brightest, healthiest egg you have ever seen. And the mushrooms? Forget it, I need a plate right now.

Nando: My favorite food destination? That's an easy one. Peru. It is my home, it is where I am from. This is my number one food destination because it keeps me connected to my roots. I was born and raised in Chiclayo, in the north, but I still always pass through Lima. And when I am there, I always make time for a meal at Canta Ranita in Lima. My favorite dish there is the Ceviche de Erizos—I love how the briny creaminess of the erizos [uni] pairs with the acidic bite from the leche de tigre in the ceviche. I have leche de tigre running through my veins. The best!

Photo: Zach Bauman

Calvin Davis, Freshwater, Kansas City, MO
I lived in New Orleans for a few years, and that city had a huge impact on me as a chef. As soon as I get in town I'm going straight to Parkway for a po’ boy. It seems like something that should be so easily recreated, but there's something about po’ boys in New Orleans that I've never been able to find anywhere else. New Orleans is such a cliché answer though—if I had to pick a town that was off the beaten path in the food world I would go to Columbia, Missouri. And if I'm going there, I'm going straight to Barred Owl and getting some baller charcuterie, then a slice of the bánh mì pizza at Pizza Tree.

Photo: Mei Mei Restaurant

Irene Li, Mei Mei, Boston
I recently traveled to Maui and had an amazing time there. Part of what I loved so much was that the food felt very Asian and very American at the same time (i.e. rice and noodles everywhere but also classic Americana). My go-to spot is Sheldon Simeon's Tin Roof for mochiko fried chicken and ulu mac and cheese. And I won't lie—I also love Zippy's, the Hawaiian equivalent of Denny's, for saimin and loco moco. It's so cool to have Asian-influenced food so widely available as a mainstream option!

Photo: Wayne E. Chinnock

Giselle Miller, Menton, Boston
Locally, I love to go and visit Portland, Maine. Food there is very unique and comforting. My partner and I love to go to Miyake every time we visit the city. What I love about them is their simplistic flavors; they stay very true to the components and main focus ingredient. I love to try their omakase nigiri and seasonal ceviches. Their duck dish is also to die for! When we are out and about and walking around the city, DuckFat is another great spot. I'm a simple kind of “French fries on the go” type of girl, so when we go there we always get their DuckFat truffle fries—the paninis are great, too! Another spot I love is Eventide for late-night oysters. They have really great selections and it's one of my favorite foods to eat, so it's a plus [that] they serve them late [at] night!

Photo: Suzi Pratt

Shota Nakajima, Adana, Seattle
My favorite food destination is Osaka, Japan, for sure! In Japan Osaka is called the city of kuidaore—which means a city where you eat ‘til you collapse. You can have Michelin star experiences, but you can also not make any reservations and just walk around eating street food till you collapse!

Photo: Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North

Samantha Sanz, Talavera at the Four Seasons, Scottsdale, AZ
I love going to Portland, Oregon, to visit my brother. I truly love PDX because it is always a culinary adventure with all the new restaurants, breweries, bars, and wineries. There [are] so many great restaurants there. I love going to Le Pigeon and sit[ting] at the bar while watching the kitchen rock their service so effortlessly. All of their dishes are great and very seasonal; the one dish I still dream about is their foie gras profiteroles. The other restaurant I love to visit is Tasty n Alder for brunch. Sit and wait outside while sipping one of their delicious bloody marys. The dishes that are a must are the radicchio salad and the Monte Cristo.

Photo: Sharif Hassan Photography

Nolan Wynn, Banshee, Atlanta
I was truly enamored with the food scene in Portland, Maine. There is an amazing concentration of great restaurants and bakeries packed into such a small area. I really enjoyed the food and vibe at the Honeypaw. Simply put, It's just a cool place with great food. I would order anything there that has to do with noodles!


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Frank Guerriero is the media assistant at the Beard Foundation. Find him on Instagram.