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18 chefs from around the world share their fast food cravings

From Big Macs and hot wings to Mexican Pizza and kebabs, these are the fast food favorites that chefs reach for.

Morgan Olsen
Written by
Morgan Olsen
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When we imagine chefs dining out, we tend to think of opulent tasting menus rife with foie gras and truffles. While that's not a total farce, most of the chefs we know are lucky if they get five minutes to nibble on leftovers from the day's staff meal. Just like us, they're not above a post-shift fast food fix—whether that's a McDonald's Big Mac and fries or local cheap eats, like Chicago's Italian beef or Barcelona's pan con tomate. When they're on the go, these are the fast food favorites that chefs around the world reach for. Now, if you'll excuse us, there's a drive-thru attendee trying to get our attention.

Craving more insider insight from the world's best chefs? You're in the right place. Talk to the Chef! is a new weekly food series that will tap into the minds of culinary leaders around the globe. The conversation changes just as often, and we'll chat with chefs about everything from podcasts and kitchen equipment to emerging trends.

Chef-approved fast food favorites

Big Mac
Photograph: Courtesy McDonald's

Big Mac

“After all the new concepts, discoveries, and whatever is being hyped on social media by the ‘foodie’ crowd, I find myself returning to the granddaddy of all fast food sandwiches. Maybe it’s that the Big Mac made its local debut the same year Jimmy Hendrix roared into our ears with Are You Experienced. There was a cultural shift happening, and Ronald McDonald wanted to be a part of it. He created a masterpiece—something to bring a little comfort and peace to a country in turmoil. You can keep your myriad of chicken concepts. I’m all about the double beef.” —Chris Willis, chef-owner of Pammy's in Boston

Fish and chips
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

Fish and chips

“I can’t resist that British classic fish and chips if it is well made. The fish has to be spankingly fresh, the batter has to have an off-the-Richter crunch without a hint of grease, and the chips should have a crisp exterior with a soft, pillowy interior. I love to eat this doused with sea salt and plenty of malt vinegar, a big fat gherkin and tartare sauce straight out of the paper it comes wrapped in. It always tastes better somehow if there’s howling wind and pelting rain outside.” —Ravinder Bhogal, founder of Jikoni in London

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New York slice
Photograph: Andrew Tess

New York slice

“I live in New York City, so it’s pizza. There isn’t a better snack in the world. I always sneak a slice in on my way home to ‘complement’ whatever my wife is making for dinner.” —Richard Zaro, owner of Cutlets Sandwich Co. in New York City

Hash browns or French fries
Photograph: Shutterstock

Hash browns or French fries

“If we’re talking real guilty pleasure, we’d say McDonald’s hash browns or French fries. They’re so good, so satisfying, and just a couple cents. We honestly go to the counter and just order that. In Miami, though, croquetas and cafecito from any of the great Cuban ventanitas around town are a super satisfying quick bite and pick-me-up.” —Luciana Giangrandi and Alex Meyer, chefs and co-owners of Boia De in Miami

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Fried rice

“That's easy—fried rice! I’m an Island girl, and we love our rice. The Torres Strait is much more multicultural than people think: We've had food influences from Japanese pearlers and the beche de mer industry, not to mention Islanders from Papua New Guinea and Indonesia going back generations on generations, so we're into soy sauce, lemongrass and all those amazing Asian flavours in our dishes. After a long day when I can't be bothered cooking, a really good bowl of fried rice hits the spot for me every time.” —Nornie Bero, owner of Mabu Mabu in Melbourne

Gözleme
Photograph: Shutterstock

Gözleme

“Living in East London, I eat a lot of gözleme—it's like a savoury Turkish pancake. The spicy lamb from the lady at the end of Ridley Road Market is an absolute winner.” —Max Venning, co-owner of Top Cuvée in London

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Chili-cheese anything
Photograph: Shutterstock

Chili-cheese anything

“Definitely something with cheese and a little bit of spice—like chilli-cheese poppers or chili-cheese fries. [I also love] vanilla soft-serve with any caramel element… if it is salted caramel, even better! I am a sucker for salted caramel, fudge, butterscotch—it's something that I just have to have sometimes.” —Carolize Coetzee, executive chef at Tokara Restaurant in South Africa

Italian beef
Photograph: Nick Murway

Italian beef

“My fast food guilty pleasure is Italian beef sandwiches—I love the fact that they are Chicago-specific. French dips are often used as a comparison, though the truth is the Chicago Italian beef lives in a class of its own. I usually order a beef sandwich juicy, meaning the meat is stuffed into the bread and then dipped into the gravy that the beef is cooked in. Next, a layer of slow-roasted green peppers are added, and to finish, another layer is added in the form of giardiniera. It is messy and delicious.” —Erick Williams, chef-owner of Virtue in Chicago

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Mexican Pizza
Photograph: Courtesy Taco Bell/Joshua Blanchard

Mexican Pizza

“Taco Bell! Growing up in California, tacos are life. Back in the day, it was bomb when the Mexican Pizza had green onions and olives. Anyone who remembers that is the O.G.” —Timon Balloo, chef-founder of Sugarcane in Miami

Chicken goujons

“I love M&S chicken goujons—preferably with mayo and some chips. I think it's a hark back to my childhood. My mum was an M&S fanatic and we would get all the new ready meal stuff from there as it came out: chicken kiev, cod, prawn pies—everything! These crispy goujons just do it for me, and they are easy and quick. My wife finds it hilarious.” —Ben Tish, chef-owner of Norma, London

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Double cheeseburger
Photograph: Courtesy McDonald's

Double cheeseburger

“Hands down a McDonald's double cheeseburger. Make sure you get a double cheeseburger on a steamed bun, extra pickles, extra onions, Mac sauce and some of that bomb ass chilli oil. My life hasn't been the same since this creation.” Khanh Nguyen, head chef at Sunda in Melbourne

Doritos Loco Taco Supreme
Photograph: Courtesy Taco Bell

Doritos Loco Taco Supreme

“Taco Bell’s Doritos Loco Taco Supreme with Fire sauce. I think it's actually pretty genius how they made Doritos chips into a Taco Bell hard shell. If I'm feeling extra wild, I will wash it all down with a Mountain Dew Baja Blast Freeze.” Emily Yuen, executive chef of Bessou and Bessou at Time Out Market in New York City

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McGriddle
Photograph: Courtesy McDonald's

McGriddle

“Well, if we talk about breakfast food, I’m a sucker for McDonald’s sausage, egg and cheese McGriddle. It’s the most genius breakfast invention of all time in my eyes. That with an OJ and hash browns is my jam.” —Thai Dang, chef-owner of HaiSous and Thai Dang at Time Out Market in Chicago

Hot wings

“It has to be KFC hot wings with larb sauce. They have it on the menu in KFC Thailand but not in England, so I make it myself at home. I have it maybe once or twice a year, it’s so, so good.” —Saiphin Moore, owner of Rosa’s Thai Cafe and Lao Cafe in London

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Chicken nuggets
Photograph: Shutterstock

Chicken nuggets

“Chicken nuggets! Not the processed kind though. Whenever I am overworked or really stressed out, I love ordering chicken nuggets, fries and a Coke. It's probably time to switch to acai bowls—I've been pretty stressed out lately.” —Paola Velez, co-founder of Bakers Against Racism and pastry chef at Maydan in Washinton, D.C.

Pa amb tomàquet
Photograph: Shutterstock

Pa amb tomàquet

“Each country has its own fast food. We have ‘pa amb tomàquet,’ which is just bread spread with fresh tomato. I love it and I can’t live without it. But I will confess that my favourite American fast food is a big, juicy grilled hamburger. I think this flavour is universal.” —Ada Parellada, chef-owner of El Restaurant Semproniana in Barcelona

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Kebabs
Photograph: Shutterstock

Kebabs

“Kebabs! I love a dirty, greasy kebab after a night out and possibly a few too many beers. Always makes the next morning at work less of a struggle. My go-to is mixed charcoal chicken and lamb, with hummus, toum, chilli sauce, chips and salad.” —Tom Sarafian, head chef at Little Andorra in Melbourne

Greek sandwich

“A fat Greek sandwich. My favorite [spot] is a Greek restaurant in rue Saint André des Arts in Paris. I crave it. But I could also drool for a falafel sandwich in the Marais, at l’As du Falafel.” —Alessandra Montagne, chef-owner of Nosso in Paris

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