A burger and fries stands on the pass at a Bar and Block restaurant, operated by Whitbread Plc, in London, U.K. (Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)  

The Trash Snacks and Fast-Food Guilty Pleasures of Top Chefs

(Bloomberg) -- The 8th annual Atlanta Food & Wine Festival is the premier event of its kind in the South. Think red carpet meets white coat. Michelin stars mingle with James Beard Award-winners to demonstrate the laciness of caul fat, discuss the microbiology behind fermentation, and debate the economics of sustainable sourcing. 

But while this top-flight culinary brain trust was convening over the past weekend, we took the opportunity to pose two far-more-important questions:

  1. You’re on a road trip, hungry, and you have to gas up. What snacks do you get? 
  2. Farther down the road, you’re hungry again, but this time you face a panoply of fast-food joints. Where do you go?

And since fast-casual is all the rage, we captured these chefs with a Leica Sofort, the luxury brand’s first entry into the instant-camera game.

Here is what we discovered:

“Funyuns, sour gummy bears, Takis Mexican chips, and the Flamin’ Hot Munchies Snack Mix. That’s my jam. Your fingers are red and you start to lick them. If sh-- gets crazy, I will hit Taco Bell. I get the Doritos Locos or the cheesy Gorditas.” Brittanny Anderson of Brenner Pass in Richmond, Va., 2018 James Beard Foundation Best Chef Mid-Atlantic semifinalist

“If I’m trying to be healthy, a granola bar of maybe some trail mix. Otherwise, Cool Ranch Doritos, Mountain Dew, and something chocolatey. And then a sausage egg and cheese biscuit from McDonald’s.” — Ferrell Alvarez of Rooster & the Till in Tampa Bay, Fla., 2017 James Beard Foundation Best Chef South semifinalist

The Trash Snacks and Fast-Food Guilty Pleasures of Top Chefs

“Pork skins and a root beer. Every time. After, I’m gonna go to Wendy’s and get a Baconator with extra cheese. Not a root beer at that point, because I’m clogging up. So, a bottle of water. Cory Bahr of Restaurant Cotton in Monroe, La., 2015 Food Network’s Chopped Champion

“Jerky and Bojangle’s chicken and biscuits” for her. For him: “You know those shrink-wrapped sandwiches that come in the triangle plastic containers? That’s me. Egg salad.” Michelle and Greg Baker of the Refinery in Tampa, 2016 James Beard Foundation Best Chef South semifinalist

 “Spam musubi. It’s a big gas station thing in Hawaii. Sushi rice with Spam on top, with nori wrapped around it. Best thing ever. And then a Whopper. No mayonnaise.” Todd Thrasher of Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, Va.

“Doughnuts. Or sandwiches at Sheetz. Good toppings. I like it over 7-11. Later, Subway would be my first pick. Or Arby’s grilled chicken sandwich and definitely, fries. Double-fried so they’re extra crispy.” Sunny Baweja of Lehja in Richmond, Va., 2018 Richmond Magazine Best Restaurant

The Trash Snacks and Fast-Food Guilty Pleasures of Top Chefs

“Slim Jim, beef jerky, 100 percent. Later, sausage biscuit, no egg, with cheese from McDonald’s.” Scott Drewno of Chiko in Washington, 2018 James Beard Foundation Best New Restaurant semifinalist

“Diet Coke and Honeybuns. Then, either Big Mac with medium fries or chicken and dumplings with mac and cheese and extra cornbread, at Cracker Barrel.” Erik Bruner-Yang of Maketto in Washington, 2016 James Beard Foundation Best Chef in America semifinalist

“Chili cheese Fritos and a Cheer Wine. No question, Popeye’s. I get a three-piece box of spicy, two orders of red beans, and a biscuit. With sweet tea.” John Currence of City Grocery Restaurant Group, Oxford, Miss., 2009 James Beard Foundation Best Chef South winner 

“Two-for-one dollar peanuts. And french fries. I don’t care where they’re from. I might even stop at three places and get three different fries.” Vishwesh Bhatt of Snackbar in Oxford, Miss., 2017 James Beard Foundation Best Chef finalist

The Trash Snacks and Fast-Food Guilty Pleasures of Top Chefs

“Beef jerky. Whatever’s available. At some level, the sh--ier the packaging, then you know it’s made somewhere around there. And soda water. For the other, hamburger at Whataburger—with tots, if they have them.” Neal Bodenheimer of Cure in New Orleans, 2018 James Beard Foundation Best Bar Program winner

“Funyuns and a Dr. Pepper. For the other, Chick-fil-A. The original. I’ve been known to eat three or four at a time.” David Guas of Bayou Bakery in Arlington, Va., host of Travel Channel’s American Grilled 

“For me, it’s Jack Links, the fancy jerky. I’m going to sound so millennial, but Starbucks iced chai latte—two pumps of chai—and that smoked double-bacon-egg sandwich thing they have. I had one this morning.”Meherwan Irani of Chai Pani in Asheville, N.C., Bon Appétit 10 Best New Restaurants in America 2016

“Boiled peanuts. And that Taco Bell Dorito shell, especially the fiery one.” Kat Kinsman, senior food and drinks editor at Extra Crispy 

The Trash Snacks and Fast-Food Guilty Pleasures of Top Chefs

“Slim Jim. I need the protein and the fat. I’m really straightforward. Second, I want two cheeseburgers, small fries, and a bottle of water.” Ted Lee, co-host of Ovation TV’s Southern Uncovered

“Combos, the Original. Visine, and I have to have a Gatorade. Lemon-Lime. And then the Krystal burger. A sackful.” Rob Nelson of Tusk & Trotter in Houston

“Cheddar Combos and peanut M&Ms mixed together. Cold beer, if I’m not driving. And, if there’s a Chipotle around, a bean burrito.” Steven Satterfield of Miller Union in Atlanta, 2017 James Beard Foundation Best Chef Southeast winner 

“Chicharrones. And Popeye’s!” Isaac Toups of Toups’ Meatery in New Orleans, 2015 James Beard Foundation Best Chef South semifinalist

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