By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Content Agency
August 25, 2015
Former “Top Chef” winner Kristen Kish was born in Seoul, South Korea and raised in Michigan, by her adoptive parents and has called Boston, Massachusetts home for the past decade. In the new Travel Channel series “36 Hours,” she and former pro soccer player Kyle Martino explore culinary experiences in cities such as Berlin, Barcelona and Portland. Though she has traveled the world, the TV personality says she has one country that is at the top of her bucket list.
“On so many levels, my dream trip still remains South Korea,” says Kish, 31. “When my time is right, it will happen. I’m not quite ready yet, but it doesn’t keep me from thinking about exploring the place where I was born.”
Q. How has travel influenced the way you create your dishes?
A. I am reminded that all of places I admire are staying authentically local with produce, meats and wines. It’s not always possible, but when it is a meal with all locally sourced ingredients, it really shines. From farm, to chef, to guest. Nothing more. And the food is deceptively simple, which reminds me to reign myself in, as I can get tangled in the more-is-more philosophy.
Q. Where have you enjoyed the most amazing meals?
A. Barcelona to me is the apex of dining: seafood, the best hams and produce, the markets, the wine … I could go on and on. I’ve had so many meals from casual on the beach to fine dining. Everything about Barcelona appeals to me. It’s so close to the water, while also having beautiful rolling hills not too far away.
Q. To someone about to visit Boston, what would you say about the city?
A. I have lived in the city for nearly 10 years and have watched and been a part of the ever-growing food and hospitality scene. It’s not a city to be overlooked. It’s definitely a culinary destination, accessible to so many, not only for the restaurants, but our public markets, farm stores, shops like Olives & Grace, which sells tons of local product and features the city’s makers. It’s a great place to explore and live.
Q. If money and time were no object, where would you hop on a plane to for another great meal?
A. I’d probably choose a city I haven’t been to — Tokyo, Seoul, Sydney and all the places in New York City that I can’t seem to keep up on. I am always looking to try new places. I have a tendency to frequent the same places out of love for that restaurant. Getting me outside of the country or my comfort zone encourages me to try a new place for every meal, drink and snack.
Q. What was the first trip you took as a child?
A. Disney World in Orlando. I grew up going there many years in a row. I loved it then. When I think about it, it brings back such nostalgic feelings. My family also did the Bahamas often. Last time I was there was when I was 22, so we all can guess what that trip was like. Rum, and lots of it. Maybe that’s why I can’t seem to drink it much anymore.
Q. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your travels?
A. To be open to talking to people, to stay curious and to ditch the phone. While filming, my phone isn’t around. I’m not taking pictures, obviously, when we are in scene. I am immersed in the conversation or experience being had. Life will not end if Instagram doesn’t get updated with my every move. It’s liberating to just walk without a map and get lost a little … but not too lost. Be smart, have fun and open up.
Q. Where is the most romantic destination?
A. Anyplace with someone you love. My girlfriend and I have been many places together, from places in Spain and France to many U.S. cities. Every couple has versions of romance just as every city. It’s fun to explore all the styles.
Q. If you’ve ever gone away for the holidays, which was the best trip?
A. Most of my holidays are in Michigan at my parents’ house or Boston with family. I’m a bit more traditional for Christmas and to me that means going home when possible.
Q. What are your five favorite cities?
A. Boston, Chicago, Barcelona, Berlin and New York. The possibilities are endless and three of the five for me can be visited for a weekend getaway. And although Boston is my home, I consider New York City and Chicago a version of home, as well. And I have to add a sixth and say Grand Rapids, because my family is there. And I’d take a weekend with them over most anything.
Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?
A. I always end up traveling with so much stuff — clothes for filming, knives and food supplies for dinners. I crave the times I can pack a backpack with a couple T-shirts and a pair of jeans. No make-up, nothing nice.
Q. What is your guilty pleasure when you’re on the road?
A. Not so much a guilty pleasure, but more of a staple: fried chicken fingers, mayo and French fries.
Q. What is your best and/or worst vacation memory?
A. Hahaha. Oh, goodness. Worst wasn’t really a vacation, since it was summer sleep-away camp as a kid. I hated them. I was so sad to be away from my mom and dad. So many tears and often I didn’t make it because I refused to leave them for more than a night. Anyhow, I went to a couple, but this one particular time I ate blueberry cobbler in the cafeteria and got sick in front of all of my friends, because I was crying so much out of pure homesickness. My parents stuck to day camps from there on out. I remember it like it was yesterday (even though it was) 25 years ago. Best vacation? My first cruise as a four year old. All you can eat buffet for a growing child: fruit sculptures, dessert tables and tons of French fries. I was happy.
Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?
A. It’s been a very long time since I had a real vacation. I am very fortunate to travel all over the world, but it’s my work still. I have a vacation planned with my girlfriend at the end of this month to Anguilla, which I am looking forward to. Long overdue and very much appreciated. Short answer? Any place I can shut down, sleep in, roll out of bed, and hop in clear blue waters.
Q. What untapped destination should people know about?
A. I need to go to Croatia.
Q. Have you traveled to a place that stood out so much that you felt compelled to incorporate it into your work?
A. Not exactly. I take away a feeling of overall inspiration — not anything too specific though. I live in Boston and my resources aren’t the same as the chef who has a restaurant on the beach in Spain. I take away experiences and the joy someone has cooking in a place they call home.
Q. Where are your favorite weekend getaways?
A. My couch. I travel so much that my home feels secondary sometimes.
Q. What are your favorite hotels?
A. So many hotels. It’s hard to remember them all. I’m not very picky about whether it’s a small room, large room, luxury or trendy. Doesn’t matter really. Just as long as I’m in the middle of a great area, the bed isn’t too soft, it’s clean and the sink drains properly. Surprisingly even the best hotels have slow drains. Drives me crazy.
© 2015 JAE-HA KIM
DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.
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