Tasty Travels with Chef Patty
When planning her next great adventure, local cuisine and culinary discovery play a major role in Chef Patty’s decision. From Thailand to Cambodia, France to Mexico and other locales, the flavors of each delicious destination have inspired her in more ways than one. Chef Patty brings a piece of each unique place home in her heart—a spice, an exotic ingredient, an emerging trend—and pours the experiences into her recipes. With so many cultures and cuisines yet to explore, we sat with Chef Patty to learn more about how she satisfies her culinary wanderlust.
What do you love most about culinary travel?
Experiencing different cuisines throughout my travels only made me want to travel more. The cuisine is such a big part of every culture, it’s evident when I travel. From the simplicity of seeing locals cooking on the streets of Vietnam to talking to a cheese shop owner in Italy while tasting freshly made cheese, and everything in between.
Where have your culinary adventures taken you?
I’ve traveled to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Spain, Italy, France, Mexico, England and of course, many states within our own country.
I’ve loved, and am inspired by, everywhere I’ve gone. I want to continue to experience more cultures and their cuisines, but I especially enjoy Southeast Asia. The food is fresh and flavorful, and the local people are so friendly and happy. It makes me appreciate what I have at home even more and to not take it for granted.
What’s your favorite part about Southeast Asian cuisine?
I like the freshness of [the food]. Fresh herbs … fresh seafood, the spices not typically found in American cuisine. I’ve been to a lot of food markets there, and it’s remarkable the amount of ingredients they have to flavor the food—from fish paste to curries. And they make everything by hand. I haven’t been to Korea but I’d love to go just for the kimchi variety alone.
Any tips on how to plan a great culinary tour?
Every time I plan a culinary tour for a customer, I learn more about how to better plan the next one. Proper planning starts by discovering and aligning with the customer’s specific needs and goals. Once I choose my stops, I plan what to discuss at each location and how it relates to their business: why we’re here, what’s the big idea, what can we take away, etc. Don’t look at the menu items at each stop for exactly what they are but what they can be for the customer.
Visit each location ahead of time and, if possible, speak to the owner or manager to see if they’d be willing to talk to your group about how they came up with their concept. On your pre-tour, ask for other local recommendations. You have to be open to seeing where the day takes you.
In fact, we were waiting for waffles at Dolly Llama in Los Angeles when a man walked in holding a slushie from Taste of Universal. It looked so cool and aligned with the kinds of concepts our customers wanted for their business. We asked him where it came from and immediately headed down the street to try a slushie. It was a really cool experience.
Foodies in the industry are especially willing to share super-cool places, because the best places might not be mainstream. Like black ice cream—you can find out where it is and what everybody thinks of it on the internet, but the place down the street that you’ve never heard of might be better.
What’s a “wow” flavor moment you weren’t expecting?
Everywhere I go, I try to find where the locals are eating and loving it—both old standbys and new places. In December 2017, I had great ribs at Pappy’s in St. Louis. They were Memphis–style ribs, which I had never experienced before.
These ribs were unusually sweet compared with ribs I usually eat. Then there was some spice and very light heat. There wasn’t any sauce on the ribs; in fact, they looked dry. Part of the rub is massaged into the raw meat before it’s smoked. At the end, you add the remainder of the dry rub. So, they might look particularly dry, but they’re actually not dry at all. Then you get this sweet, light heat flavor right away and you get the fattiness of the rib and the smokiness.
It was surprising and really quite good. I started thinking about how I could incorporate OREO into smoked ribs and came up with a really flavorful recipe.
How do your travels inspire you in the kitchen?
I especially enjoy using spices or spice blends that I taste during my travels. I like to think of different ways I can use them in my cooking at home or development for my job.
The recipes you’ll find on the Culinary Center are influenced by current trends, my travels and customer interest. We have to think about who our customer is, who their customer is and how the recipe is going to be used. This year, though, we’ll probably do the most out-of-the-box items yet. We’re currently working on some exciting recipes for 2019.
The bubble waffle was becoming more trendy and I wanted to jump on that to get ahead of the curve. But the version I created isn’t a traditional bubble waffle. Typically they’ll have some mochi flour or rice flour to get that chewy texture, but ours is just a standard waffle because you have to think of how to make an emerging trend easy for our customers to implement. They would probably have waffle batter or can easily obtain waffle batter, and it’s inexpensive. It’s a balance of here is something trendy but in a way that the customers can do it and be successful.
A lot of the really cool things are coming from Korea, Japan, different places in Asia. There is a large global influence on the current food trends we’re seeing. Right now there’s a hot trend around new and exciting ways to hold ice cream. The bubble waffles are still new, but they’ve been followed up by the fish cones (taiyaki) and waffle sticks that are decorated and more photo-worthy. Chefs are also doing a lot with shaved ice.
Any place in the U.S. in particular that’s really trendy? Where is the innovation coming from?
In every city you’re going to find chefs who are being super-creative. For example, New York City’s Ice & Vice has amazing ice cream. They’re doing unique ice cream flavors and novelties in their shop.
A lot of cities are influenced by their population. Orange County, which is only an hour from LA, has one of the highest concentrations of Vietnamese people in the U.S. So you’re going to find a lot of different Asian cuisines. It also has a big Mexican population. The ethnicities that live and are concentrated in and around the cities that you go to are really going to help to shape what cuisines are becoming more mainstream in those cities. For me, it’s Chinese cuisine in New York City, Cuban influences in Miami, and Polish flavors in Chicago.
Which of Your Recipes Have Been Directly Inspired by Your Travels?
My great-grandparents lived in Reading, PA., which is Amish country. I remember growing up, always having whoopie pies. I wanted to make one for Mondelēz for the longest time. The cake part is really a close match to the whoopie pies I had growing up, but it tastes like OREO. That was a fun one.
The Brioche Toast with OREO Spread comes from a pastry I made back when I worked at the Four Seasons in Maui. It isn’t the Bostock pastry, but it’s a close approximation of it. If it’s done well, the baked brioche is sliced, soaked in a flavored syrup, then spread with an almond crème and sprinkled sliced almonds. Then it’s baked again and sprinkled with powdered sugar.
We dip ours in vanilla syrup to go with the flavors of the OREO. Then we top it with an OREO spread instead of the almond crème and bake. It isn’t true Bostock, but it’s an OREO version of it.
Where are your favorite places to eat while on the road?
It depends on where I'm traveling. When I traveled to Spain I was focused on small local spots as well as Michelin-starred restaurants. Often when traveling, I like to find the small local spots. There are a lot of hidden gems you find that way and you’re also supporting family-owned businesses.
I also had my first Shake Shack experience a couple of weeks ago in Scottsdale, Arizona. I had an amazing burger and fries. I enjoyed it so much that I went again the next week in Orlando.
What place is on your travel bucket list and do you have any food plans for that location?
I have Portugal, Venice and Greece planned for 2018. I chose these places because I haven't been there. I usually start searching for where I would like to go a couple months ahead of time. I look for what local foods I can find to enjoy and try to learn as much as possible about what is local to each place.
I am looking forward to the gelato in Venice. Some say you should judge a gelato shop by the vanilla, but I judge by its pistachio and hazelnut flavors. If they do those well, then it’s a good shop. Their gelato should be naturally colored—no bright, artificial colors.
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