Everyone likes fast food, and chefs are no exception. Here’s when they grab a bite—and what their favorite foods are.
Chefs, like all of us, indulge in guilty-pleasure foods. But on what occasions do they ditch their pans and pots, head to their favorite fast food joint, and get themselves a juicy burger with fries or cole slaw on the side?
We asked several American chefs, restaurateurs, and food personalities whether they eat fast food, and which food items are worth the wait at the counter or drive-thru.
Take a peek below to find out what they told us.
When Chefs Eat Fast Food
So, let’s waste no more time in formalities and get to the meat of it: When do chefs eat fast food?
Whether they do pop-ups, run their own a restaurant, or manage a global hospitality business, there are some common threads.
The chefs we spoke to reverted to fast food mostly on their way to/from work during the work week. On weekends, they said, it’s more of a family outing thing.
On Their Way To/Back From Work
When you’re a chef, there’s no such thing as working from home. Unless, of course, the restaurant is in your home kitchen. Or you’re a personal chef who cooks at other people’s homes.
Not surprisingly, all of the chefs on our list said they had long commutes—and, very often, ravenous appetites along the way.
From cleaning the kitchen and checking supplies to directing staff and preparing for the next day, there’s plenty to do after service hours are over and food is no longer being sent to the tables.
This means that chefs work weird hours, when very few places, if any, are open. When hunger strikes in the car on their way back home, fast food is virtually a no-brainer.
To Relive Sweet Childhood Memories
A burger and a pile of fries are more than just food: they’re a way to travel back in time.
To relive sweet memories of a carefree childhood, when mom or pop would take you out to your favorite restaurant on the weekend, treat you to a delicious meal, and spend quality time with you, away from the mundane worries of adulthood.
As you will see in our chefs’ replies below, fast food sometimes reminds them of those bygone days in a nostalgic, bittersweet way (when it comes to memories, the best way there is).
I, too, admit to spending time alone now and then, biting into a McDonald’s cheeseburger and feeling like I’ve stepped back a few decades into a time long gone.
To Create New Memories With Their Family
Then, there are the times when chefs want to spend quality moments with their family, especially the kids, far away from the hustle and bustle of the restaurant kitchen.
Fast-food restaurants provide a good, informal setting to get everyone to put down their phones—a rare, rare event nowadays—unwrap the burgers, and talk in-between bites.
Since man has lived in a social setting, food has been both a source of energy and an opportunity to socialize. And there is little doubt that biting into a burger, burrito, or sandwich is one of these opportunities of our time.
The Chefs We Spoke To
Alicia Shevetone, Dink Cuisine
Alicia Shevetone is a pop-up chef, a regular on Fox’s MORE show, and the creator of Dink Cuisine, a food and entertainment organization that promotes cooking experiences across print, digital, social, and live media.
Shevetone tells me that she loves fast food. “It brings me back to childhood, a guilt-free time when I ate whatever I wanted, and was grateful not to be eating a home-cooked meal.”
Asked about her favorites, Shevetone said: “Jack in the Box’s fried Chicken Sandwich is my go-to when I’ve reached the point of no return—as in, I’m so beyond hungry that I can’t even fathom making a more responsible choice.”
“It’s not too big; loosely translated, I don’t feel too guilty after devouring it. In the absence of a Jack in the Box, McDonald’s fries dipped in mayonnaise hit the two notes I seek: salty and creamy.”
David Burke, David Burke Hospitality Management
David Burke is the executive chef and principle of David Burke Hospitality Management, with 17 restaurants spanning from New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina all the way across the Atlantic to Saudi Arabia.
“I admit it,” Burke says, “I eat fast food. Not so much because I love it, but because I drive a lot, often at weird hours when nothing else is open. My go-to is McDonalds’s drive-thru for a cheeseburger and fries. Old school.”
“No Big Macs or anything like that. But if I see a White Castle, anywhere out of the corner of my eye, I make an immediate detour any time. There’s just something about those sliders. I get a six pack of sliders and onion rings.”
“Sometimes, I’ll go to Popeye’s for the dark meat chicken; it’s a good product.”
Derek Kaplan, Fireman Derek’s Bake Shop
Derek Kaplan is the owner of Fireman Derek’s Bake Shop, a bakery specializing in pies, cakes, cheesecakes, cookies and one-of-a-kind desserts in Miami, FL.
“Miami is a big driving city with little opportunity for foot traffic outside of our main walking neighborhoods like Miami Beach, Wynwood or Coconut Grove,” he says.
“Needless to say, Miamians spend a ton of time in their cars—creating a sizable fast food market.” Kaplan finds himself indulging in fast food mostly during the work week, when he is on-the-go between meetings or is too busy to sit down for an elaborate meal.
“When I do eat fast food,” he adds, “I’m usually going down the fast casual route, I like ordering on their apps to cut down on wait times.”
Kaplan is a big fan of the smash burger: “Shake Shack is my go-to. Shake Shack’s fast casual environs and overall quality always stood out to me; their staff and customer service is always on point and the consistency of the product is always there.”
“There’s a certain sophistication in the taste of the burgers, the vibe of the restaurants, and feel of the whole Shake Shack experience that I really admire and look forward to. Don’t get me wrong I am 100% not above a McDonald’s Egg McMuffin, but you can’t knock the Shake Shack hustle.”
Ines Chattas, Open Kitchen
Ines Chattas is the chef-owner of Open Kitchen in Miami, FL, and Culinary Director of UN Plaza Grill in New York City, NY.
“Yes, I have a relationship with fast food,” she reveals humorously. “McDonald’s Big Macs are my weakness. Although I recently discovered Chick-fil-A. Their sauce is crack. I love it. I eat it with shrimp cocktail.”
“And I used to go to KFC with my father. So one bite of their fried chicken and cole slaw takes me back to those happy times. Now, I have happy times at KFC with my son,” Chattas adds. “We‘re closet chicken eaters, because my husband hates anything that flies. When he’s out of town, my son and I hit KFC.”