TASTE

Professional Chefs Play Our 'Four Foods Of The Apocalypse' Game

03/27/2015 05:12 pm ET | Updated Mar 31, 2015

A while back, we unleashed our favorite food-based hypothetical question on the world: the Four Foods Game. My best friend, Chloe Searcy, and I invented this game in college, and now we're bringing it back. The basic idea is that you have to choose the four ingredients that you'd cook with for the rest of your life, in a post-apocalyptic scenario. The full rules are below.

Last time, we had a group of Huffington Post staffers -- mostly on the Taste team -- give their answers. This time, we've asked famous, talented chefs from around the country to play. The chefs' answers were quite different from ours. They were less likely to choose foods that could be eaten directly out of hand, and more likely to pick ones that require cooking -- probably because they love spending many hours in the kitchen every day! The most obvious example of this difference: lemons. Not a single HuffPost staffer included them in their selection -- but seven of the 13 chefs we polled for this post did. Chefs, it seems, understand the versatility of the fruit, and the importance of acid in balanced flavors.

Before we dive into the chefs' answers, a reminder on the rules (which are the same as the last time we played): The world has ended. Everything's destroyed. Gone forever. The only thing left is you -- and the mansion, apartment, shack or house you live in right now. It's pretty sad.

But this apocalypse has a silver lining: Somehow you have a magic refrigerator. This brilliant genius of an appliance holds a constant supply of salt, pepper, oil, flour and sugar -- and whatever four other foods you choose.

You can't choose just anything, though. Your four foods have to be simple ingredients, not composed dishes. Lettuce, not Caesar salad. Ground beef, not Chef Boyardee Beefaroni. Cream cheese, not the New York Cheesecake from Ruby Tuesday. Also, you can be vaguely concerned with health, but you don't need to fret if your four foods don't contain the daily recommended amount of selenium. It's the apocalypse -- you should treat yo'self.

One last thing: You'll get the same four foods for the rest of your life. So you should choose foods that you can combine into enough different dishes to keep you satisfied for the next several decades. Be ambitious! You'll have plenty of time to cook now that your office is a pile of rubble.

On to the chefs' answers! If you'd like to play as well, leave your ideal four foods of the apocalypse in the comments.

  • Curtis Stone, chef-owner of Maude in LA
    Aimee Herring (Asparagus), tashka2000 (Avocado), Getty Images (Eggs), Richard Boll (Goat Cheese)
    Curtis Stone's four foods: asparagus, avocado, eggs, goat cheese
    Why he chose them: "Life post-apocalypse doesn't sound like too much fun on the culinary front, but hey, we're going to work with what we've got. Aside from the staples you've allowed me (salt, pepper, oil, flour, sugar), I'm nominating these four ingredients to see me through the rest of my days: asparagus, avocado, egg and goat cheese. Asparagus is our hero ingredient at Maude in April and features in each dish of our nine-course degustation, and in June it's avocado. I've selected egg because what's a life without homemade pasta and goat cheese for a nice punch of flavor and creaminess?"
    What he could make with those four: grilled asparagus with a soft-boiled egg and a crumbling of goat cheese, Cacio E Pepe "minimalist pasta" with hand-rolled tagliatelle, goat cheese and pepper, asparagus crudités with a smooth avocado dip, chunky guacamole, toad-in-the-hole-style eggs in avocado, tempura avocado and asparagus, baked goat cheese wheel, goat cheese ravioli with grilled and roughly chopped asparagus, asparagus chips, steamed asparagus with a crispy sunny-side-up egg, lazy asparagus and goat cheese omelette, asparagus fritters, avocado deviled eggs, avocado and boiled egg salad, spaghetti with crispy egg and soft goat cheese, fried goat cheese, medley of grilled green, purple and white asparagus with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper
  • Jessica Koslow, chef-owner of Sqirl in LA
    Getty Images
    Jessica Koslow's four foods: feta, brown rice, Meyer lemons, kale
    What she could make with those four: "I would pretty much make a version of the sorrel brown rice bowl at Sqirl every day -- preserving lemons with the salt, but also using the Meyer lemon juice and kale to make a version of the sorrel pesto. I could also eat the kale raw, seared or crispy on occasions when I'm feeling glutenous (ha!). I'd be missing the dill ... but I'd live."
  • Josiah Citrin, chef-owner of Melisse in LA
    Shutterstock (Porterhouse Steak), Getty Images (Remaining)
    Josiah Citrin's four foods: tomatoes, porterhouse steak, eggs, lemons
    What he could make with those four: "Tomatoes - tomato sauce because I have flour to make pasta with. Sliced tomatoes with salt and pepper. Chopped tomatoes with olive oil and lemon juice to go with my porterhouse. I can slice them and put scrambled eggs over them. Porterhouse - I would grill it over wood and that's that. Eggs - Because I'll have sugar and flour, I can bake. I can scramble them, fry them, poach them and even have steak and eggs. Lemon - I would make lemon curd. I would also use lemons to add acidity and balance to all of the different things I'd make with my limited ingredients."
  • Carmen Quagliata, executive chef-partner of Union Square Cafe in New York
    Getty Images
    Carmen Quagliata's four foods: tomatoes, garlic, eggs, pecorino cheese
    Why he chose them: "Pasta is my favorite food and I chose these ingredients because I could make and eat fresh pasta with fresh tomatoes, garlic, and pecorino the rest of my life. You get the acid from the tomato, the protein and meatiness from the eggs, and the flavor from the garlic and the cheese. All of these ingredients can make warm and comforting food. My one regret is the sugar -- if I could trade that ingredient in, I'd exchange it for chili flakes. Of course I would lament the void of fruit and losing out on fresh peaches and berries, but the tomato would be that refreshing thing I could have when I missed all of the fruits that I love."
    What he could make with those four: Poached eggs baked in tomatoes, raw tomatoes with olive oil, unleavened flatbread with pecorino cheese, fresh pasta with tomato sauce and pecorino cheese, egg and pecorino sandwich on unleavened flatbread
  • Steve Redzikowski, chef-partner of Acorn in Denver and Oak at Fourteenth in Boulder, Colorado
    Shutterstock (Arugula), Carlos Gawronski (Prosciutto), Getty Images (Remaining)
    Steve Redzikowski's four foods: cheese, San Marzano tomatoes, arugula, prosciutto
    What he could make with those four: "Cheese for pizza. San Marzano tomatoes for pizza. Arugula for pizza, but I also love, love, love arugula. A really nice, spicy arugula is one of my favorite things in the whole world. I love it with olive oil, salt, pepper and grated parmesan. Prosciutto to make pizza, but also sandwiches."
  • Thomas Kelly, chef-partner of Mexicue Kitchen + Bar in New York
    GMVozd (Chilis), Courtesy of Anson Mills (Carolina Gold Rice), Getty Images (Remaining)
    Thomas Kelly's four foods: chilies, eggs, rice, lemons
    What he could make with those four: "Chilies are my go to spice -- I have hundreds of varieties in my pantry and use them with almost everything I cook. And with chilies and lemons, hot sauce can be made which would be key in any post-apocalyptic scenario. Lemons are always in my fridge for everything from cocktails to salad dressing to salsa to desserts. Carolina Gold Rice would be my choice for an open canvas grain that I will never ever get sick of and needs minimal seasoning. Eggs -- obviously."
  • Zak Walters, co-owner and chef of Salt's Cure in LA
    Aimee Herring (Chicken), tashka2000 (Avocado), Rachel Been/AOL (Collard greens) ,Shutterstock (Wine)
    Zak Walters' four foods: whole chicken, avocados, collard greens, Beaujolais wine
    What he could make with those four: Chicken soup, wine-braised chicken, fried chicken, chicken and braised collard pot pie, chicken and dumplings, chicken fricassee, smoked chicken, chicken salad sandwich, roasted chicken with dark gravy, chicken pasta (an Oklahoma thing), chicken soft taco with avocado garnish, guacamole with crackers, avocado toast, avocado smoothie, avocado pizza, chopped salad of collards, chicken and avocado, chicken and avocado collard wrap, lots of Beaujolais to drink
  • Joe Tarasco, chef de cuisine of Marta in New York
    Getty Images
    Joe Tarasco's four foods: garlic, lemons, mushrooms, bones
    What he could make with those four: "I would make a starter culture from the flour, water and sugar. Each one of my post-apocalyptic meals would start with toasted bread, garlic and olive oil (or, roasted bone marrow with lemon and salt). In addition, I could make roasted mushrooms stuffed with bread crumbs, garlic and lemon zest, roasted mushrooms, torn bread toasted with garlic and olive oil, dessed with lemon and marrow, sandwiches with roasted mushrooms with garlic, lemon and some 'au jus' seasoned with black pepper for dipping, pasta (the shape would change every night, maybe with all that time on my hand I might create a new one) with a sauce made from reduced stock, roasted mushrooms, roasted garlic, finished with lemon. I would make ramen, or something similar, then make a long, gently simmered broth with the mushrooms steeped in at the end. Also noodles and mayu (burnt garlic oil)."
  • Jet Tila, chef-owner of Pakpao Thai in Dallas, among others
    Another Pint Please.../Flickr (Pork Shoulder), Shutterstock (Rice), Getty Images (Remaining)
    Jet Tila's four foods: pork shoulder, rice, oyster sauce, Chinese broccoli
    What he could make with those four: Fried rice, rice cakes, dumplings, pork jerky, stir fry, soups, bacon, rice cakes, porridge, rice wine
    Another Pint Please.../Flickr
  • Ben Goodnick, executive chef of Summer House Santa Monica in Chicago and North Bethesda, Maryland
    Another Pint Please.../Flickr (Pork Shoulder), Getty Images (Remaining)
    Ben Goodnick's four foods: pork shoulder, apples, garlic, white wine
    What he could make with those four: Braised pork with apples, apple pie, stuffed apples, bacon sandwiches, flatbread crackers with roast garlic spread, sangria with apples, roast pork with apple sauce, pate en croute, apple sauce, sautéed apples, cueritos (pork rinds)
    Another Pint Please.../Flickr
  • Nicole Rucker, pastry chef of Bludso's and Golden State in LA
    Getty Images
    Nicole Rucker's four foods: eggs, heavy cream, lemons, cheddar cheese
    Why she chose those: "It is a fact that I could exist alone on quesadillas with eggs. So why deviate from what my actual daily want is? I chose these things because, honestly, I think I could spend the rest of my life eating these satisfying but not too exciting meals -- because I'd have no one to make them for but myself and that would make me sad so why not just eat a biscuit alone in the post apocalyptic world? I thought was to much about this... is the box of seeds we have inside our house still there? Is there a chance of growing things form those seeds? Are there trees or any vegetation left? I'd spend as long as possible trying to figure that out."
    What she could make with those four: Eggs (fried, scrambled, etc.), ricotta, ice cream, pasta, sourdough bread, TORTILLAS, butter, lemon jam, lemon curd, lemon meringue pie, lemonade, buttermilk pie, pancakes, biscuits, buttermilk, mac and cheese, deviled eggs, mayonnaise, a black pepper hot sauce
  • Josh Laurano, executive chef of Lupa in New York
    Getty Images
    Josh Laurano's four foods: eggs, lemons, langoustines, red onions
    What he could make with those four:Fried egg with caramelized onion, langoustine frittata, lemon and red onion salad with raw langoustines, langoustine head and red onion soup, tonarelli with lemon, fettucine with langoustines, red onion and lemon, broiled langoustines with charred lemon, fried langoustines, lemonade, lemon pie
  • Eric Korsh, executive chef of North End Grill in New York
    Shutterstock (Cheese), Getty Images (Remaining)
    Eric Korsh's four foods: fresh anchovies, lemons, puntarelle, Vacherin cheese
    Why he chose them: "I chose these ingredients for their versatility; you can eat puntarelle raw or cooked, you can eat anchovies cooked or cured (and raw if they are very fresh), lemon complements them both perfectly (plus you can make a glass of lemonade, which is delicious). Then there is Vacherin, which is simply one of the most sensual culinary experiences you can have. If you've had Vacherin, you would understand that you couldn't get sick of it... even if it was one of only four ingredients you could have for the rest of your life."
    What he could make with those four: "First and foremost, I would pack the anchovies in salt and, once they were well-salted, I would pound them into a vinaigrette with lemon juice and olive oil and use it to dress my puntarelle salad. A variation of this would be to take fresh anchovies grilled over wood, placed over the raw, cold crispy puntarelle, dressed with a warm anchovy vinaigrette.
    I would eat the Vacherin straight as a second course. I could also use my stock ingredients to make matzo and make a toasted matzo Vacherin sandwich with pickled puntarelle.
    I could also make deep-fried anchovies; frito misto of fresh anchovies, deep-fried paper-thin lemon slices and puntarelle; anchovy crudo with chiffonade puntarelle greens, lemon juice, olive oil; and salted preserved lemon vinaigrette with crispy anchovies and braised puntarelle."

Photo illustrations by Gabriela Landazuri Saltos.

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