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What Professional Chefs Order When Eating Out

04/14/2015 07:11 am ET | Updated Apr 14, 2015

Yes, they have the adventurous palates you'd expect -- but they're also really into veggies and meatloaf.

By Lynn Andriani

  • Healthy Food, But Not For The Reason You Think
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    Vegetables are definitely having a moment; they're "the new bacon," the stars of the show, with chefs treating them with tremendous respect. English chef Jamie Oliver is so taken with veggies, lately, that he says if he spots a main course that comes with a "cool vegetable" on the side, he'll just order the veg, as an extra side to whatever else he's having. And when Louis Maldonado of Spoonbar in Healdsburg, CA, looks at a menu, he orders "all of the vegetable dishes, no matter what or how many." Maldonado points out that those dishes often show how creative a chef can be with basic ingredients.
  • A Supper They Used To Eat
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    Simple, homey food is a big draw for many chefs. Take the meatloaf at The 1770 House in East Hampton, NY, which has a sweet, roasted-garlic sauce, and is memorialized in Ina Garten's book Barefoot Contessa Foolproof. Whenever chef Tim Dacey, of Capa Restaurant at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando, dines at 1770, he orders it. "It fits exactly what I'm always looking for: simplicity, substance and, most importantly, flavor." Jeff Mahin, executive chef/partner at Summer House Santa Monica, Stella Barra Pizzeria and M Street Kitchen, also likes to order something that brings him back to childhood: Chinese hot and sour soup. He's on a constant quest to find one that's as good as the one he remembers eating while growing up.
  • Anything But Cookies. Or Cake. Or Pie.
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    After spending her day surrounded by and tasting sugary foods, pastry chef Kate Goodyear, who makes sweets at Barchetta in New York, never orders desserts out. Instead, she craves the hot, sour and salty foods often found in Asian and Mexican cuisines. On her days off, you'll find Goodyear going for green papaya salad or soup dumplings filled with rich broth and ground pork.
  • Every Dessert On The Menu
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    And then there's Molly Hanson, executive pastry chef at Grill 23 & Bar in Boston. She usually starts with a fish entrée when she eats out, so she'll feel a tiny bit more virtuous when she orders more desserts than there are people at her table. Hanson usually only takes a couple bites of each, but says she's curious and excited to see and taste new things, all "in the name of pastry research."
  • The Hot, Handheld Flavor Bomb
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    We aren't the only ones who love taco night -- many chefs are also fans of eating chili-spiced ingredients in a tortilla with their bare hands (and yes, a cold beer makes it taste even better). Mahin, of Summer House Santa Monica, says he always orders an "al pastor" taco (made from marinated pork shoulder) with cilantro, onions and lime when he's at a Mexican restaurant. The allure for him is in the dish's simplicity and its balance of crispy, juicy, sweet and spicy. (And for thrill-seeking chefs, consuming spicy food lets them live dangerously without actually risking too much).
  • The Stuff Most Of Us Don't Cook
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    Chicken liver terrine, bone marrow, even jellyfish salad: chef Kevin Sippel, of Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen in Morristown, NJ, says bring it on. He recognizes that it requires a lot of skill to transform "undesirable" cuts and organs into delicious dishes, and appreciates it when other chefs are up for the challenge. The same goes for Troy Guard, chef/owner of TAG Restaurant Group in Denver, who's been known to order duck tongue on occasion.

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