Chefs' Picks for Culinary Destinations

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Photo courtesy of Dahl Restaurant Group

It’s that time of year: August is a popular month for summer vacation, and many people across the country are getting ready to depart for far-flung destinations, where different cultures — and cuisines — await. Chefs do the same, and just like most food-minded travelers, they seek out delicious inspiration. Here, five chefs dish about their favorite culinary destinations.

Lisa Dahl, executive chef-owner, Dahl & DiLuca Ristorante Italiano, Cucina Rustica, Pisa Lisa and Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill, Sedona, Ariz.

Dahl has made a name for herself in the Sedona dining scene with her fine Italian cuisine. Her latest restaurant, Mariposa, is quite a departure from her usual fare, though. She was inspired to open this Latin-centric spot after visiting Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. “Traveling in South America took on a serenity and an ease that sometimes I don’t feel when traveling to Europe,” Dahl notes. As she wound her way through this region of the world, she experienced a spate of culinary adventures like learning to make empanadas and cook over an Argentine parrilla. “From the chefs and those who welcomed us, [to] the wine, we were always made to feel right at home,” Dahl says.

Scott Tacinelli and Angela Rito, chefs, Dinnertable, New York City

Husband-and-wife culinary duo Tacinelli and Rito both grew up in Italian-American families, so it should come as no surprise that the pair are intrigued and inspired by Italy. They’ve been drawn back to the country again and again, having made a habit of visiting at least once a year. And the couple has learned that asking locals for dining tips can lead to the most-divine culinary discoveries. “Our favorite meal we’ve had was at a trattoria called Cammillo in Florence, Italy,” says Rito. She and Tacinelli were brought there by a friend who is a Florence native. “The meal made such an impact on us that we fell in love with Florence, and decided to have our wedding there,” Rito notes.

This summer they’re headed to Naples to sample its acclaimed street fare.

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Simon Bregardis, executive pastry chef, Fontainebleau Miami Beach, Miami Beach, Fla.

One of Taiwan’s greatest appeals for Bregardis is its “quality food.” He is fascinated by the country’s varied offerings, which include family-style seafood, hot tea and boba milk tea. “Food there is totally part of the culture,” Bregardis explains. “Taiwan is multicultural, so in the same street you can find a local market displaying farmers’ products but also an upscale French bakery.” The pastry chef gets his fill of not only sweet treats but also savory bites. And the snacking doesn’t stop when the sun goes down, either. Bregardis is partial to the bustling night markets, where he weaves through the stalls on the hunt for staples like tofu and delicacies like sweet sesame balls cooked in brown sugar syrup.

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Jason Campbell, executive chef, Mary Eddy’s Kitchen x Lounge, Oklahoma City

At the helm of the restaurant of the 21c Museum Hotel Oklahoma City, Campbell transforms local, seasonal produce and tender meats into craveable dishes. He likes to travel to Canada to source new ideas for his creations in the kitchen. “My ideal culinary vacation is to travel around Canada, eating at the country’s best restaurants,” says Campbell. “The cuisine in Canada is very versatile, and you never end up eating the same thing twice!” His must-visit spots are Joe Beef, Beast, Au Pied de Cochon and Sugar Shack, and Wilensky’s Deli, all in Montreal.

Charles Welch, executive chef-partner, Honey’s, Chicago

At this West Loop spot, Welch churns out an array of thoughtfully sourced, seasonal American fare inspired by the bright, bold flavors of the Mediterranean. Even though Welch’s food takes tips from Europe, it’s the culinary capitals of America that seem to have taken hold of his travel itinerary. His travels within the country are often twofold in purpose, as both culinary-centric work and play await.

“Last October I took a trip to San Francisco to sample some of the cuisine the Bay Area has to offer and had the chance to dine at some wonderful establishments,” says Welch. While there, Welch staged at SPQR, got seafood inspiration at Swan Oyster Bar and dined on dishes from Zuni Cafe and The Slanted Door. “I’m eager to return to San Francisco to experience even more,” he says.

Interested in going on your own culinary adventures? Check out our city guides and great eats across the country:

Pro Tips: 10 Top Augusta Restaurants

Ski Town Eats: Telluride

Heavenly Biscuits from Coast to Coast

The Maine Meal: Where to Eat in the Pine Tree State