National News: LA Chef Talks Inspiration from Travel for New Dishes

By Maxine Wally | Travellers Today


For any chef, inspiration for a new dish is almost always comprised of experiences, memories and travel that can be tasted through the flavor.

Owner of Marion Street Cheese Market in Chicago Leonard Hollander traveled through England, Ireland, France, Spain and Italy on an 11-week journey to find new flavors for his store.

The BBC was so taken by Beijing chef Da Dong’s Peking Duck after visiting China that they came up with their own duck salad dish, and posted it on their site.

Andra Ang wrote, “To the People, Food Is Heaven,” an entire book based on her gastronomical travels as she ate her way through China.

It is clear, then, that travel and inspiration for new dishes go hand in hand.

For Susan Feniger, one of Los Angeles’ most coveted chefs, trips are always a new opportunity to take experience and encapsulate it on a plate.

Feniger told the Huffington Post that she’s always planning her next food trip, almost immediately upon returning home.

Her restaurant Street, which first opened its doors in 2009, is one based on the worldwide street food movement.

She traversed a multitude of foreign lands in search of the flavors and tastes that represent each country’s participation in the movement.

But it’s not just about the food, Feniger insists. What truly brings about inspiration for a new dish is the overall experience with the people she meets along the way.

When Feniger and her cookbook-writing partner Mary Sue Milliken were doing research for new dishes to offer up at their second restaurant, Border Grill, they spent a fair amount of time in Mexico. People from all walks of life there welcomed she and her business partner into their homes.

“When you go into people’s homes, they’re so happy you’re there eating their food,” she said. “People took us into their homes because they wanted us to taste their food. You didn’t get that if you go to restaurants. When you are on the street and you are in a culture that doesn’t usually see [travelers] they really like that [you are willing to try their food.]”

Feniger said not only does eating food made by everyday people give her inspiration for new meals, it is also the best way to truly see the country.

“When I travel, if I don’t see a historical site, I’m okay,” she said. “The much more rewarding experiences are the ones with people in their kitchens. My memories when I travel are ones with people, not with monuments.”