Chefs have some of the most refined palates in the world. They've cooked with and tasted just about every ingredient imaginable. So what foods strike fear into their hearts when they're sitting at the dinner table, knife and fork in hand?
We recently caught up with top chefs and food celebs at the star-studded South Beach Wine and Food Festival in Miami to find out what foods terrify them. The answers may surprise you.
1. Duck Embryo
"I have a few. My most scary food aversion is balut [duck embryo], which is a Filipino or southeast Asian delicacy. It's kind of crazy because my mom will eat it and scarf it down. I will not. Cannot. No. I’ve never even tried. The crazy thing is I'm a very adventurous eater and give anything a shot once. [My husband and I] were in Vietnam and we got a bowl of noodle soup and there was a balut as garnish. And I was like, 'No. I am NOT f***ing eating this.'"
2. Egg Salad
"Egg salad that's been sitting out in the sun all day and also happens to have extra mayo is incredibly scary to me."
"When I was young, I have memories of my grandmother making tripe. I usually love her cooking but this was the one dish that I never looked forward to. The smell alone used to drive me out of the house, but she'd still try to make me eat it. I think those memories have stayed with me, because I still dislike it to this day–from the smell, to the texture, to the taste."
–JJ Johnson, Executive Chef of Minton’s
4. Runny Egg Yolks
"I eat eggs but I'm not a big fan of the runny yolk. Like if something has a fried egg and someone cracks the yolk and it starts running all over the food…I’m trying to quickly grab it from under before the yolk gets on it. And that’s embarrassing, right? Because all chefs are like, “[Runny yolk] is liquid gold.” And I’m thinking, 'Don’t let that yolk drip onto my food!'"
–Helene Henderson, Chef/Owner of Malibu Farm
5. Peanut Butter
"When I was young growing up in the late '70s/early '80s, my mother read an article in Good Housekeeping about children who asphyxiated and died from choking on peanut butter sandwiches. So she told me I was allergic to peanut butter and it would make me sick…because I was such a fast eater as a toddler. Then I grew up in my teens and would eat peanuts, but I thought I was allergic to [peanut butter]. I love peanuts too, so I was conditioned by a psychotic, chain-smoking mother in the '70s to hate peanut butter.
6. Clams and Oysters
"I have a fear of many things. I’m a meat and potatoes guy. I don’t eat clams or oysters, and I was recognized at a restaurant in Philadelphia once and was delivered a plate of very expensive seafood that had clams and oysters. You can’t send it back, since it's a gift. So we ended up talking to these two young women next to us and said, 'OK, do us a favor–slowly take these things and if you can eat them, that would be great.' I don’t like oxtail soup. I don’t like foie gras. I don’t eat anything weird. I just don’t. It’s always awkward for me to try and hide that."
–Marc Summers, Talent/Host of Unwrapped
7. Genetically Modified Foods
"I have a fear of genetically modified foods [GMOs] and chemicals in processed foods that I can’t pronounce. When I read a package that has all these crazy words and chemicals or a vegetable that has been scientifically modified, I can't help but think of the 1896 science fiction novel, The Island of Doctor Moreau. I have this fear that I’m going to turn into a strange mutated version of myself or grow a third nipple or something worse if I eat this modified ingredient.”
8. Celery Root
"I hate celery root. My mom used to boil it to a mush with no salt or any other flavoring and force me and my brother to eat it. Even when prepared nicely at great restaurants, it still causes flashbacks."
9. Meat in a Can
"Spam. Meat in a can. Any kind of meat in a can. I just think it’s gross. It has that gelatin all around it, and meat is not supposed to be in a can! Its unjustifiable to me. My father used to bring it home when we were kids…and my mother would make it for him. I’ve had it on toast and I’m like, 'No, I really don’t like this at all.' It reminded me of dog food, and I don’t think I would even feed it to a dog. It's just byproduct."
10. Shrimp Sushi
"I love sushi and I’m pretty open to eating all of it, but when it’s the shrimp sushi that’s raw, just texturally, it's so off-putting and weird. It’s sort of slimy but also sort of crunchy. I don’t like it. And the tail. I don’t eat the tail either. The whole thing is very difficult to eat and I just push it away. And I eat sushi three to four times a week!"
–Jeremy Jacobowitz, founder/influencer of Brunch Boys
11. Monkey Brains
"I’m still scarred from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, so monkey brains is something that scares me to death. But typically, I’m not a spicy food eater, so anything in that camp, I typically run as far away as possible. If it's borderline [spicy], there are some great flavors in that, but otherwise, for me, I’m like Ben Stiller in Along Came Polly. I’ve watched that scene and said, 'No, no…that’s real.'"
–Jamie Schweid, President of Schweid & Sons
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