Name: Penny Davidi
Occupation: US FOODS Culinary Specialist and Food Network Celebrity Chef
Where were you born?: Tehran, Iran
Where do you live?: Los Angeles
Penny Davidi is well-known to TV audiences – she is currently on Food Network’s Kitchen Inferno with Curtis Stone; on Bravo’s hit shows Vanderpump Rules and Real Housewives of Beverly Hills where she is executive chef of PUMP in West Hollywood. She was the winner of Chopped!, a Chopped All Stars Season 2 finalist, and Food Network Star Season 7 finalist where she wowed the judges with her sophisticated, delicious dishes and spicy attitude.
How would you describe your travel style?
My style of travel whether near or far is somehow always based around great places to eat, and based on that, where would be a cute place to stay. I love crowds, unlike most people, I will gravitate to the herds of people gathered around a food truck or a street stand over a remote “fancy” restaurant any day.
What’s your earliest travel memory?
My earliest travel memory is at age 5, my mother and I left Tehran and travelled through Switzerland and Germany where my mom had a lot of family, and ended up in Israel – the land of milk, honey and some of the best food ever!
When researching travel destinations, how important are food/drink choices and experiences to your overall decision-making process?
When researching travel, my husband and I focus on the food and beverage offerings both at the property and off. We both love to eat and drink, and shop (but that’s a whole different story.) We focus on places that would inspire us to bring the dining memory back home and embellish on it in some form or another – like doing a great ‘Paella Night’ with friends or ‘Create your own Tagine from Morocco – and my personal favorite is all the offerings of Greece! Opa!
Culinary traveler or food explorer? Which do you identify more closely with?
I am definitely a food explorer. I love trying new things and places, the more random the better. I wouldn’t eat insects and bugs, the closest to that I guess was snails at Mille Luis and the Hôtel Costes in Paris. After all, when in Rome, or Paris in this case.
If we ask your best friends if you’re a foodie, what would they say?
I don’t have any friends left… I ate them too…They would say I am a foodie but not a food snob, there’s a big difference I think. Plus they love eating with me every chance they get.
What’s in your carry-on? Any essential food or kitchen tools you won’t leave home without?
If I am heading to perform someplace, my carry on must have saffron threads, dried preserved lemons and powdered dry lemons. Yes I have healthy snacks, warm socks, lavender oil and hand cream, a bag of oven roasted almonds, homemade beef jerky, and Linzer cookies for back up. Ooh and of course Benadryl… knocks me out till landing.
What’s the most unusual food you’ve eaten?
Again I don’t get into insects and such but I will say, Japanese or Chinese cucumber at a wedding, sorry that’s just nasty! And snails, but now I am a huge snail fan.. especially prepared by David Burke on a roasted bone marrow… yum!!
If we handed you a ticket to anywhere in the world, where would you go?
A ticket anywhere, ooh that’s tough, but I am a Persian Jew and will find a way to get to all my destinations. I would fly into Istanbul, through Santorini and end up in Lake Como, Italy, crashing a Clooney party.
What’s the best culinary travel experience you’ve ever had?
My best culinary travel experience would have to be the cobblestone streets of Santorini and the sexy seaside restaurants in Istanbul. There’s nothing like these two travel and culinary destinations in the world. The spices, colors, people and sights alone make for an amazing outer body experience.
Any great travel tips to share?
Study your destination well in advance. Pace yourself when it comes to picking more than one destination. Pick travel partners wisely. Make sure they like to eat, drink, art walk, and walk period as much as you do.
Favorite Culinary Destination: Paris
Favorite Cuisine: Japanese
Favorite Restaurant: Favori Vietnamese in Orange County (Best baked catfish!)
Favorite Street Food: Korean BBQ
Favorite Food Market: Whole Foods
Favorite Gourmet Shop: Dean and DeLuca
Favorite Winery: Ledson Winery & Vineyards, Sonoma Valley
Favorite Brewery: Don’t really have one. I love Stella and Negro Modelo
Favorite Food/Tasting Tour: Delfinia tours and Oceania Cruises for cruising
Favorite Culinary Tour Operator: Nancy Manzikos of Delfinia rocks! As does Adrienne Forst of Protravel International
Favorite Travel App: Trip Advisor
Facebook: @Penny Borsuk Davidi
Instagram: @Penny Davidi Borsuk
You can join Chef Penny as she brings her expertise in herbs and Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors to the kitchens of the majestic island of Crete, Greece from May 22 – 29, 2015 where she will show a small group of food enthusiasts how to prepare healthy meals following the principles of the Cretan diet (renown since antiquity for promoting longevity).
For more information, please visit http://www.delfiniagroup.com/greek-food-and-wine.aspx#crete.
Laura Goyer, CCTP
Digital Content Creator
Laura is a world traveler and culinary travel professional on a mission to help busy prime-time women find the best local food when they travel.