My Secret Ingredient

By: Chef Carrie Walters | Culinary Director
On: April 02, 2016

As a chef, I’m often asked what is my favorite food to cook? What’s my favorite ingredient? Restaurant? I have a hard time answering those questions because I’m influenced by where I’ve been, what I’ve tasted, and what I wished I’d ordered. Here is the bottom line: Travel and experience is my secret ingredient.

I’ve always loved the adventure of food. My mom was a good cook and I have fond memories of many of her family dinners. Dad, on the other hand, loved the adventure of going out to eat. We’d all pile into the station wagon, giving my mom a break, and hit the road. We ate at all sorts of places, from roadside diners to fancy restaurants wearing our Sunday best.

At DLM, I work with folks who are as passionate about eating and cooking as I am—so just imagine traveling with them! We talk food from the time we get up to the time we call it a night. At home, my family vacations are planned around the meals we’re going to eat. Conversations at breakfast involve talk about lunch and that turns into lunch conversations about dinner. Now that my adult children can drink wine, it’s even more fun (and expensive)!

Travel not only influences my style of cooking, but what I buy at DLM. To me, the whole point of traveling is immersing yourself in the culture, and a big part of that is the food. Smell, taste, and breathe it all in. Sharing a table with locals or laughing with strangers while in line waiting for a delicacy is what it’s all about. Taking a bite out of what’s there makes all of my travels more special.

Just walking into foreign food markets and watching what people are interested in and what they are buying inspires me. I wonder how they are using it? What are they going to cook? Do we carry that at DLM? I come back to work ready to start cooking with a revitalized passion. It’s funny, but I do more research after the trip then before. I want to recreate those experiences.

I scour menus while traveling to see what’s popular, what everyone is ordering, and what they are drinking. I just have to check out bakery counters, the local markets, the coffee shops, and the gelato cases to see the colors, smells, and just be a part of that community. Because guess what? I want in. For me, travel let’s me experience that and grow, and then I bring those experiences back home with me and to DLM.

It turns out that I’m not alone—just look at Instagram or Facebook. Everyone wants to share their plate. So whether you are looking to explore the local farmer’s market or the cuisine while you are out of town, let yourself soak it all in. Get on the bus, hop in you car, board that plane—there’s a world of good food out there, so go on and take a bite!