What would you want to eat for your last meal? The sky’s the limit; anything you want. Don’t get bogged down in the finality of the situation. Instead, think about the dishes and drinks that have given you the most pleasure in your life. This might be the first time you’re considering this question, but many chefs think about it constantly. After all, their lives are focused on and consumed by food, so they have some pretty strong feelings on the subject. We asked nine of them what they would want to enjoy for their last suppers before joining James Beard and Escoffier in the great big kitchen in the sky.
Amy Brandwein, Centrolina, Washington, D.C.
“I imagine my last supper with my husband, family, and closest friends. I’d start with tuna nigiri with ginger and soy sauce. Followed by a bowl of buckwheat chitarra with anchovies and chickpeas, which I’d make myself. I’d move on to chestnut trofie with financière sauce featuring sweetbreads, veal, and chicken livers by Roberto Donna of Al Dente in Washington, D.C. From there, I’d want pad si-ew with duck and Chinese broccoli at Duangrat’s Thai in Fall’s Church, Virginia. Next up? Pat LaFrieda’s ribeye with turnip greens cooked with garlic, hot pepper, and anchovies, plus Robuchon potatoes from Rose’s Luxury in Washington, D.C. To finish, I’d have one of my favorite desserts: coffee gelato with whipped cream, salted peanuts, and Kahlua.” Make a reservation at Centrolina.
Juan Manuel Barrientos, El Cielo, Miami, Florida
“I’d want traditional Colombian cuisine – fried rice, plantains, chorizo, chicharrón, avocados, arepas with hogao sauce (made with tomato and onion), and aguardiente (an anise flavored liqueur). Dessert would be sweet figs cooked tender in sweet water served with queso blanco, along with coffee and guarapo (cane sugar juice). Everything would be served family style and, of course, my family would be there. Family is the most important thing for me, and they bring balance to my life.” Make a reservation at El Cielo.
Trae Basore, Pearl & Ash, New York, New York
“I would start off with a plate of fried pickles from Penguin Ed’s Bar-B-Q in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with a tall New Belgium Fat Tire. For dinner, I’d just have charcuterie – mortadella, chicken liver paté – and a cheese plate with three year-aged Parmesan, a stinky Époisses, and a really nice Gorgonzola. That would come with a big crusty French loaf, Dijon mustard, and pickles. A pint of strawberry Häagen-Dazs to finish. I’d like to enjoy it with my fiancée and all of my friends and some bluegrass music from Old Crow Medicine Show.” Make a reservation for Pearl & Ash.
Ed Scarpone, DBGB Kitchen and Bar, Washington, D.C.
“I’d want to cook my own burger because no one really knows how you like your burger. I go for medium rare with a nice redness in the middle. It’s simple. Just nice ground meat, a thick slice of onion, mayo, and aged cheddar cheese on a Martin’s hamburger roll. I’d have it with really good fries – cut bigger, skin on, and double fried, so you get that nice crispy outside and that mashed potato inside. Mayo on the side for dipping, because I despise ketchup. PBR to drink. I love pecan pie, but I’ve been allergic to pecans since I was 14-years-old. But if I’m going to kick it, I’d go for it and have grandma-style pecan pie with graham cracker crust for dessert.” Make a reservation at DBGB Kitchen and Bar.
Jennifer Carroll, Requin, Fairfax, Virginia
“My last supper would be an all-day affair on a beach on St. John with my fiancée, Billy, my family, and best friends. It would start with breakfast – a Taylor’s pork roll, egg, cheese, and scrapple on a buttered English muffin. This is what I grew up eating, and my dad still makes it for me when I go home. I know – super healthy. I’d be drinking rosé all day – morning, noon, and night. I’d move on to eating mango, pineapple, and papayas. For dinner, there would be simply grilled fish – red snapper or black bass – with lemon, oil, and herbs. And I’d need sides – my mom’s mac ‘n’ cheese with ham, roasted turnips, and pickled beets. For dessert, there would be angel food cake – because I love the simplicity of it – every ice cream in the world, Sour Patch Kids, peanut M&Ms, and chocolate-covered pretzels, along with Fernet and aged dark rum to drink.” Make a reservation at Requin.
Michelle Bernstein, Seagrape, Miami, Florida
“I want to enjoy my last supper at the beach where it’s not too windy, dining on a blanket with my family. The menu? Island Creek Oysters, a trough of the best caviar with potato chips, and a Shake Shack cheeseburger — all washed down with a Coke. For dessert: an ice cream sundae from DBGB Kitchen & Bar.” Make a reservation at Seagrape.
Scott Drewno, The Source, Washington, D.C.
“Sheng jian bao (pork dumplings) from Yang’s Fried Dumplings in Shanghai, China. I’ve been dreaming about them for more than two years since I last had them. Every time I go to Shanghai, I eat there three times. I’d enjoy them with a 15-year-old Pappy Van Winkle and my lovely bride on the water somewhere with Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. on in the background.” Make a reservation at The Source.
Justin Severino, Cure, Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania
“I’m on the fence. On one hand, I’d want the grand tasting menu at Alain Ducasse’s Le Louis XV in Monaco. I worked for Walter Manzke there, and he made a giant influence on me as a cook and what kind of human it takes to be a successful chef. When I ate at Le Louis XV, I had this epiphany that I was part of a full circle. Ducasse was an influence on Manzke, who in turn influenced me. On the other hand, when I was a kid, my grandmother and my mom cooked us dinner six days a week. My grandmother would make meatballs – we referred to them as garlic bombers – and my mom would make a really thick red sauce with rigatoni. Part of me wants that as my last meal.” Make a reservation at Cure.
Michael Schlow, The Riggsby, Washington, D.C.
“For me, the place I’ve enjoyed the most meals is a little hole in the wall sushi joint called Shumi in Somerville, New Jersey. It’s hidden away in this strip mall behind an unassuming storefront. You go down a hallway past bad high school photography and dirty bathrooms, but, at the end, there’s a beautiful Japanese restaurant. I started going in high school and have eaten there more than 500 times over the years. I had my first sushi there and discovered uni, ikura, and sake. For my last supper, I’d take over the sushi bar with my family, let the chef-owner do his thing, and enjoy it with a lot of really high- priced sake.” Make a reservation at the Riggsby.
Nevin Martell is a Washington, D.C.-based food and travel writer and the author of several books, including Freak Show Without A Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. Find him on Twitter @nevinmartell.
Photo credits: Adam Milliron (Justin Severino); Greg Powers (Amy Brandwein and Jen Carroll).