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7 Acclaimed Chefs Share Their Most Memorable Meals

From chicken cooked in a bladder to steak tartare and frites

Michelin stars aligned for the fifth annual GourmetFest in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, the foodie festival organized by Relais & Châteaux, a global collection of fine restaurants, hotels and resorts. This year, the program featured 35 renowned chefs, wine experts and sommeliers, and attracted 2,400 guests for four days of feasting.

Emceed by hotelier and restaurateur David Fink, programming included a wild mushroom hunt, cooking demonstrations, and one giant family dinner featuring black truffle and Black River caviar (13 pounds in all) washed down with 150 bottles of Ruinart Blanc de Blanc.

Between mouthfuls of foie gras, we asked a few of the illustrious chefs in attendance to share their most memorable meal. Once you’ve gotten the skinny on these chefs’ life-changing culinary experiences, be sure to mark your calendar for GourmetFest 2019; like reservations for Relais & Châteaux‘s portfolio, the collective’s tent-pole event is highly coveted.

Barbara Lynch – Chef/Owner, Menton

“In Lyon, Paul Bocuse. There’s a reason he has had three-Michelin stars since 1965. He’s French food,” says Lynch, chef and owner at Menton in Boston, of the multicourse meal she had at the colorful eatery four years ago, which included chicken en vessie, a.k.a. chicken cooked in pork bladder.

David Kinch – Chef/Owner, Manresa

Kinch’s most memorable meal was an eight-course extravaganza at chef Olivier Roellinger’s eponymous restaurant in Brittany, France. “I waited 15 years to go to this restaurant,” shares the three-Michelin starred chef behind Manresa in Los Gatos, California. After finally making it there in 2006, Kinch decided it’s “not about one particular course, but it’s about the whole experience. It’s like a story.”

Joshua Skenes – Chef/Owner, Saison

“I really love this little place in Tokyo called Matsukawa,” says Skenes of San Francisco outpost Saison. But good luck getting a table. “It’s an invite-only, six seat counter,” he explains.

Kyle Connaughton – Owner, Single Thread Farm and Restaurant

Connaughton, proprietor of farm, inn and restaurant Single Thread, had his most memorable meal at the age of 9 on a trip to Japan with his dad. The most memorable part, he says, wasn’t the name of the restaurant (he doesn’t recall) but the fact that the experience convinced him that he wanted to dedicate his life to food.

Brady Williams – Chef, Canlis

Chef Williams drove an hour-and-a-half to a village in Spain for what became his most memorable meal at Asador Etxebarri. “It’s a small restaurant. Everything is grilled,” explains the Seattle-based Canlis chef and James Beard “Rising Star Chef of the Year” finalist of the two-hour, 20-course meal. “It’s in a village of like 100 people two hours outside of San Sebastián. It’s beautiful because it’s simple.”

Nigel Haworth – Former Director of Northcote

20 years after dining at Joël Robuchon’s now-shuttered Jamin, Haworth says he can still “remember every course in great detail. And it’s still the best.” The French Laundry is another favorite, says Haworth, who now serves as ambassador to Northcote, a luxury hotel in the rural region of Lancashire, England. “I like the chicken up there,” he says with a laugh.

Patrick Kriss – Chef/Owner, Alo

Chef Kriss keeps it simple when it comes to his most memorable meal: steak tartare, frites and a Kronenbourg. “It was more about the setting,” says the Toronto-based chef of the meal, which took place in Lyon on his first trip to France.