Chefs’ Picks: Secret Indulgences
Chefs’ Picks tracks down what the pros are eating and cooking from coast to coast.
Everyone has one: a beloved food item that is soothing and uplifting, but is also kind of unhealthy and possibly somewhat embarrassing to admit they eat. It’s OK if you covertly love that chain restaurant’s queso dip, or gas station hot dogs or snack cakes from the convenience store. Even chefs have special comfort dishes. Here, four divulge their favorite secret indulgences.
Like many dessert lovers, when Chef Jean-Robert de Cavel seeks solace, he turns to a pint of ice cream. Instead of buying a national brand, though, he swings by a local shop to score his favorite flavor. “The Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip ice cream from Graeter’s Ice Cream can at times be my major vice, you know? Sometimes I eat a whole pint,” says de Cavel, who is owner and chef of the newly opened Restaurant L, Jean-Robert’s Table, Le Bar a Boeuf and French Crust Café in Cincinnati. “The fresh fruit flavor with the slightly salty chocolate chip is so perfect together. I make sure to stock my fridge at home with pints for a rainy day — or just any day, for that matter!”
When he needs to perk himself up, Bobby Benjamin (chef-owner at Butchertown Grocery in Louisville, Ky.) heads down the block to Cellar Door Chocolates to re-energize with the restorative powers of peanut butter cups. His obsession with peanut butter cups started back in his childhood and has only grown with time. “Now, with Cellar Door Chocolates’ new and improved peanut butter cups ... I could seriously eat 50 at once,” Benjamin notes.
Shuji Furukawa, executive chef at Autre Kyo Ya in New York City, knows it’s unhealthy, but he admits instant ramen is his main guilty pleasure. The classically trained chef grew up in Japan’s Kyushu region, where the famous tonkatsu (pork broth) ramen was developed. Growing up, he ate instant noodles for lunch and even as an after-dinner snack. “Now I try to stay away from eating ramen so often in general, but I can't help myself,” Furukawa says. “Also, when I've had a couple of drinks, I could eat two bowls of ramen in a row with no problem.”
(Cultivate a ramen obsession of your own with Food Network’s fresh spins on the instant noodle dish.)
Furukawa also has a bit of a fixation on a classic candy: gummy bears. “It's a good pick-me-up kind of snack throughout the whole day,” he explains.
When chef and restaurateur Michael Schulson (owner of Double Knot in Philadelphia) wants some comfort, he doesn’t go lowbrow, nor does he have a specific dish. Schulson prefers to order several things at one specific restaurant, Chef Vola’s in Atlantic City. “It’s in a small house, in a basement,” says Schulson. “I get the linguine and clams in white sauce, veal Parm on the bone … tossed salad with tomatoes and roasted peppers, and butterscotch ricotta cheesecake.”
Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream photo courtesy of Graeter's Ice Cream and Peanut Butter Cups photo courtesy of Cellar Door Chocolates