Rants & Raves
September 1, 2022
Great Chefs. Guilty Pleasures.

Everyone has a guilty pleasure. That certain something that, while not generally held in high regard by your peers, provides tremendous pleasure along with a touch of shameful guilt.


For some, this could be indulging in a trashy romance novel, cheesy movie or binge-watching TV. In the culinary world, guilty pleasures are frequently obsessive overindulgences with a focus on mass produced foods made from questionable ingredients with no particular nutritional or socially redeeming value.

When it comes to masterful chefs whose culinary talents have been elevated to the level of iconic, it's surprising to learn what they enjoy most when their restaurants are closed and nobody's watching.

According to a 2017 interview that appeared in The Boston Globe, Anthony Bourdain revealed that his guilty pleasure, his truly disgusting and shameful pleasure, was mac and cheese from Popeye’s. Similarly, multiple reports indicate that Julia Child, champion of French cooking, had a well known obsession with hot dogs, looking forward to her visits to Costco to satisfy this craving (me too!).

Having celebrated the culinary achievements of a large number of chefs in and around northeast Florida, I was wondering what sort of private pleasures might be hidden under their toques or secreted away in their private pantries. As such, I approached a few that are commonly held in high regard to see what they had to say on the subject.

TOM GRAY, chef and owner of Prati Italia and Town Hall restaurants, is one of Jacksonville's irrefutable culinary stars. As a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and an enviable career that includes two “Best Chef: South James Beard Award” nominations, this guy is no slouch. Away from his operations, Tom likes to indulge in In-N-Out's renown Double Double with cheese along with a side of "animal fries" (topped with cheese, secret spread similar to Thousand Island dressing, and grilled onions), occasionally accompanied by a sweet and frosty strawberry shake.

For those of you who consider dessert your favorite food group, you'll want to pay attention to REBECCA REED. Leading the way as the corporate pastry chef for Black Sheep, Bellwether, and Orsay, she comes armed with training from the French Culinary Institute in New York, an enviable resume and a seemingly endless number of awards. Most notably, Rebecca has developed a whimsical style that transforms her beautifully crafted desserts into stunning works of art. When not finessing every delicious detail, she takes pleasure from Takis Fuego washed down with sparkling water with a squeeze of fresh lime. For the uninitiated, Takis Fuego are rolled tortilla chips with an intense flavor derived from hot chili pepper and lime.

DENNIS CHAN, chef and owner of Blue Bamboo is one of Jacksonville's leading restaurateurs. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, he's been cooking since he was old enough to stand on a stepstool. Although Dennis specializes in Chinese cuisine, he is also the 2018 winner of General Mills’ Neighborhood to Nation Recipe Contest (you definitely want to try his Sunshine State Orange Crunch Cake). A culinary perfectionist, Dennis freely admits he's a sucker for Mega Peanut M&M's. Whenever he sees them at the store, the snack bags always seem to end up in his cart.

Just so you don't think I'm simply pointing fingers, I have a few obsessions of my own. While hot dogs and mac-n-cheese are two of my all-time faves, I find tremendous pleasure from poutine. There's nothing like digging into a mountain of french fries topped with ooey-gooey cheese, fork-tender brisket and gravy. Chili fries loaded with onions and cheese are not too shabby either. While these indulgences may not offer much in the way of meaningful nutritional value, they go down good. So very, very good.

Jeffrey Spear has been developing culinary brands, writing about food, developing recipes and producing cookbooks for more than 40 years. If you're looking to enhance the impact of your communications, believe some recipes will add value, or need someone to tell your story in ways that are visually appealing, engaging and informative, give us a call: 866 787 8761 - ask for Jeff - or shoot us an email: jeff@studiospear.com