While it’s easier than ever to get ingredients from far-flung places, there are still some things that just taste better in situ. Here, four chefs and food-industry insiders share the ingredients they’d get on a plane to find.
1. Greek Caper Leaves
“I would get on a plane right now for caper leaves from Santorini. When my fiancé and I traveled there last year, our first stop was a hole-in-the-wall wine shop called the Iama Wine Store. It’s run by a Russian woman named Ursula who collects old Greek wines and tastes you on her homemade jams. She jars these incredible caper leaves from her backyard. You can toss them in salads, scatter them on avocado toast, shower them on runny scrambled eggs, or even use the leaves to garnish a martini. I’ve never seen them in the United States.” —Jen Pelka, owner of The Riddler in San Francisco
2. Haitian Djon Djon Mushrooms
“Twenty-four years ago, I was given a bag of djon-djon mushrooms. They’re legendary in Haiti. The Haitians soak mushrooms in water, then use the liquid to make rice or chicken dishes. The mushrooms get discarded. On a later trip to Haiti, I used the mushrooms for a pasta dish, but kept the mushrooms in. The Haitians loved it.” —José Andrés, chef and president of the Think Food Group
3. Italian Tomato Paste
“In Licata, on the southern coast of Sicily, there’s a restaurant called La Madia. Pino Cuttaia is the chef and owner. Next door, he has a little shop, Uovo di Seppia, where he sells handmade pasta, truffles, cookbooks, chocolate, wine, and the best tomato paste I’ve ever tasted. It is so sweet, with a fresh, intense flavor, and it was smooth as silk. When I visited, that was the first time I’ve eaten raw tomato paste by the spoonful.” —Michael Mina, founder and chef of the Mina Group
4. Bresse Chicken
“I would fly to Burgundy for Poulet de Bresse or Bresse Chicken. While we have some incredible chicken here in the U.S., there’s just something about the flavor and tenderness of the Bresse. It’s got a richer, more gamy flavor that I would hop a flight to France for in an instant. The best I ever had was at Georges Blanc.” —Charlie Palmer, founder and chef of Charlie Palmer Group
>>Next: Is This the Best Breakfast In Asia?