Foodie Bucket List Part 2: Must-Try Ingredients

By Kelly Dobkin  |  October 1, 2013

Last time around, we asked chefs, Zagat staffers and you, our readers, for everyone's No. 1 must-visit bucket-list eatery. For this new installment, we asked chefs about their gotta-try-it-once ingredients only. While most chefs have worked with some pretty extravagant and unusual foods, you'd be surprised what items chefs long to work with before they kick the bucket. Read on to see what they said, and let us know your own must-tries in the comments.

  • Daniel Holzman, The Meatball Shop, NYC

    “I would love to travel to Peru, where many chefs are experimenting with the herbal flavors and mouth-numbing qualities of the coca leaf.”

  • Chef Anita Lo, Top Chef Masters, Annisa, NYC

    “I've always wanted to try pagliata Romana - a pasta dish using the fresh intestines of veal, which are filled with its mother's milk. I'd have a well-known Roman chef prepare it for me, or Mario Batali or Gabe Thompson.

    “I've also always wanted to try escamoles - Mexican ant eggs. I'd have Patricia Quintana or Rick Bayless make them for me.

    “And there's a worm that you eat raw that you harvest from rotting logs in the Amazon that supposedly tastes like oysters. I really just want to try them in their raw state, but if anyone is familiar with them and can cook them well, it would be Alex Atala. I'm fascinated by other food cultures obviously.”

  • Chef Graham Elliot, MasterChef, Graham Elliot, Chicago

    Kabosu (a citrus fruit): “I would use it to finish a scallop sashimi dish.”

  • Chef Tony Maws, Craigie On Main & The Kirkland Tap & Trotter, Boston

    “Wild woodcock. Had it on a trip to the Southwest area of France and thought it was super tasty. Unfortunately, we think (not confirmed) that it’s illegal in the U.S.”

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Chef Masaharu Morimoto, Morimoto, NYC and Philadelphia

    “I've already cooked with everything you can imagine, so I'm hoping that one day soon, someone will discover plants that grow in outer space. I'd love to cook with brand-new ingredients that no one has even heard of yet, ones that grow in our solar system, so that I can really create a 'universal' dish.”

  • Chef Akhtar Nawab, La Cenita, NYC

    Fugu (japanese pufferfish).

    “Being a Kentucky native, maybe I'd make a real burgoo, a spicy stew typically made with venison, squirrel, opossum, raccoon or game birds. The stew is made with whatever meat and vegetables were available at the time. And as for the opossum or raccoon, I have yet to cook with either of those proteins.”

  • Chef Elizabeth Karmel, Hill Country Barbecue Market, NYC

    “I've eaten plenty of Waygu beef, and I liked the true Waygu that I had in Japan best of all, but I've never cooked with it. I would like to smoke a Waygu brisket in Japan, in the town of Kobe!”

  • Credit: Felipe Coronado

    Chef Francois Payard, FP Patisserie, NYC

    “I think I would like to try and eat a worm before I die. It's something that has always been interesting to me, but I would want to do it in Asia, probably Thailand.”

  • Chef Ken Oringer, Toro, NYC

    “At this point I've tried all sorts of crazy stuff like whale, bat, insects, you name it, but one thing I haven't tried is ortolan. It's this tiny bird that they get drunk on armagnac and serve whole. You eat everything, the bones and all, and traditionally you even put a napkin over your head to savor the aroma. It's illegal now in France, so you can't get it anywhere, but if I happen to come across it I would probably want to try it.”

  • Chef Jamie Bissonnette, Toro, NYC

    “Ken stole my answer, and my top foodie bucket-list ingredient is the same - ortolan. And I'd want it cooked by Alain Ducasse. It's rare and illegal, a whole small bird fed prunes and drowned in armagnac. One is supposed to eat it veiled, out of the sight of judgement, as it's so decadent.”

  • Chef Nahid Ahmed, Malt n Mash and the upcoming 44 Acres, NYC

    “I’d like to experiment by cooking with sea buckthorn berries, a sour berry from a shrublike tree that’s foraged.” Note: The sea buckthorn tree is actually an invasive species, so gathering these berries is helpful to the environment.”

  • Credit: Josh Meredith

    Chef Levon Wallace, Proof on Main, Louisville, KY

    “Everybody knows that bugs are the next super protein, and I've definitely had my share… but a specialty around these parts are cicadas. I've read a couple of recipes by Andrew Zimmern, and honestly, they sound delicious. I couldn't get my hands on any this year, so I'll just have to wait until next summer!”


  • Pitmaster Matt Fisher, Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue, Brooklyn, NY

    “I’d like to get real prosciutto di Parma in Italy. The type that’s cut from a hanging ham in the meat cage and given right to me, so I can make something with spring peas and extra virgin olive oil. Then I’d eat this dish when the sun is setting. And of course I’d share some with Bill Fletcher.”

  • Chef Praveen Pedankar, Brick Lane Curry House, NYC

    “I would love to experiment with incorporating sea buckthorn berries in an Indian curry or Indian dessert. The berry has to be cooked and the pulp can be used for various things, such as in a lassi [a yogurt-based drink] or stuffed into jamun [cheese-based dessert]. Or I’d use the pulp as part of a sauce for fish or chicken to get that savory and sweet. The berry comes from coastal areas of China and is also found in the Himalayas. It is said to have several health benefits.”

  • Chef Stephen Kalt, Caulfield's Bar & Dining Room at the Thompson Beverly Hills, Beverly Hills, CA

    “Turbot and razor clams, including the razor clam pasta at ilSanLorenzo in Rome, whole toasted turbot at Martín Berasategui in San Sebastián and a side of beef roasted on an open fire by Francis Mallman in Punta del Este, Uruguay.”

  • Chef Ho Chee Boon, Hakkasan, Las Vegas, NV

    “I would like to use the freshwater fish from the river in my hometown - their meat is very tender and sweet. I would like to braise the fish with yellow bean sauce and Ginger in Chao Zhou with coal fire, the way my mother used to prepare them.”

  • Chef Graham Dailey, Peninsula Grill, Charleston, SC

    “Caviar tasting and vodka tasting at the Pushkin Cafe in Moscow.”

  • Chef Matt McClure, The Hive, Bentonville, AR

    Hakarl, or putrid shark, from Iceland is definitely on my bucket list. Hakarl is an Icelandic delicacy, consisting of Greenland shark that has been cured and hung to dry for about five months. It has a very acquired taste due to the fishy taste and high ammonia content. I've actually had the chance to taste it, but I've never cooked it myself. I'd love the opportunity to cook putrid shark with a chef in Iceland!”

  • Chef Bart Vandaele of B Too and Belga Café, Washington, DC

    “I would want to have freshly made blood sausage from my favorite butcher in back in my hometown of Roeselare in Belgium.”

  • Chef Marc Marrone, TAO Group

    “Yubari King melon (price = $22,872 for a pair). This brand of melon is truly the cream of the crop. These melons, which come from the city of Yubari in Japan, are the product of a cross between two types of cantaloupe. The orange melons are known for being perfectly proportioned and particularly juicy. I would fly to Yubari, Hokkaido, and eat it right in the greenhouse. Or maybe cross some borders and wrap it with a beautiful San Danielle prosciutto.”

  • Chef Sean Kinoshita, Executive Chef of TAO Asian Bistro, Las Vegas

    “I would like to try fugu. Preferably at Sukiyabashi Jiro, in Japan. The Chef is Jiro Ono. They usually serve this in five courses: raw, fried, baked, stewed, salad. Next would be shrimping in Japan for live sweet shrimp. Pulling up the nets at 6 AM when it is 35 degrees, getting the shrimp out of the nets and taking the meat out of the shell, eating this with a shot of sake. That would be an ultimate dream!”

  • Executive chef/partner, Michael Ferraro, Delicatessen, NYC

    “Through my culinary travels, I have experienced many different and strange ingredients, both while working and while dining. One ingredient that I have always been intrigued by and that is definitely on my bucket list is the Japanese puffer fish, also known as Fugu. Japanese cuisine is one of my favorites, and a visit to Japan is must in my near future. Fugu is an item that, if not prepared properly is extremely toxic. Therefore, this delicacy can only be made by a true sushi master who has been deemed fit by Japanese law to prepare it.”

  • Chef Brandon McGlamery, Luma on Park, Winter Park, FL

    “I would like to try fugu or scorpionfish cut from a certified Japanese master. Or I would like to eat a white truffle like a plum!”

  • Chef Chris Leahy, Lexington Brass, NYC

    “If I could try any ingredient I wanted, I would want to try a lion or elephant at a restaurant in Africa. I wouldn't know how to prepare either, maybe just with a good dose of seasoning, but would be interested to learn how and to know what it tasted like.”

  • Chef Ralph Scamardella, Corporate Executive Chef/Partner of TAO Group

    Blowfish, at Tsukiji Yamamoto or Kanda in Japan: “I like to live on the edge - this ingredient is known to sometimes be fatal!”

  • Chef Carl Schaubhut, Cafe Adelaide, New Orleans

    “At Incanto in San Francisco, Chris Cosentino does a cured tuna heart, with pasta and egg yolk. I imagine it is a play on bottarga and pasta carbonara, two of my favorite things. I have lived and cooked on the gulf coast my whole life and have eaten and prepared tuna a thousand ways, but never eaten the heart! I want it!”

  • Chef Alex Garcia, A.G. Kitchen, NYC

    “I want to make croquetas with jamón Ibérico de bellota. This ham is the best you can get - it’s from free-range pigs that roam in oak forests (called dehesas) in Spain and Portugal, and eat only acorns during the last period of their lives. It tastes incredible, especially when stuffed in a golden brown croquet.”

  • Chef-Owner Steve Martorano, Cafe Martorano and Martorano's, Las Vegas and Florida

    “I want to continue making as many pasta dishes as possible with high-end macaroni, especially different with a high-quality bronze die from Italy. My favorite pastas range from $6-$15 per pound and include rusticella di Abruzzo and Fara S. Martino from Abruzzi, Italy. Some of the new dishes I’m planning are pasta with lobster and jumbo shrimp in a sauce featuring the seafood’s natural juices, and fusilli with chicken and peppers.”

  • Chef Frank McMahon, Hank's Seafood, Charleston, SC

    “1. Pressed duck at Tour d'Argent in Paris, France,
    2. Puffin at Laekjarbrekka in Reykjavik, Iceland,
    3. Abalone at Michael Mina in San Francisco,
    4. Kobe beef at Wakkoqu in Kobe, Japan,
    5. Geoduck ceviche at Xinhs in Shelton, WA.”

  • Chef/partner Laurent Tourondel, Arlington Club, NYC

    “A whale steak in Japan. It’s illegal in most countries so if I found myself in Japan and able to try it, I would jump at the opportunity!”