Food & Wine's Ultimate Restaurant Experience Panel

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of participating in a unique panel discussion for the New York Wine and Food Festival. Hosted by Food & Wine Magazine, Editor-In-Chief Dana Cowin arranged for me and two of the most talented men in the food world, Mario Batali and Andrew Zimmern, to engage the audience in a conversation about what constitutes, as well as how to create, the ultimate restaurant experience. It was truly great to sit and chat with Dana, Andrew, and Mario. I truly admire the talents of all three and Dana made sure to engage us with the most intriguing questions on how the public can fully enjoy their food outings.

We gave advice to the audience on how to enhance their experience when traveling or when attending a new restaurant. I definitely feel like Mario's first restaurant Babbo's helped change the New York dining scene by being one of the first to really embody the fast pace of New York life. Both Mario and I were able to describe what it's like to open up a restaurant and everything that goes into building the atmosphere and service that's expected of a high-quality dining scene.

Andrew gave some great advice about seeking out authentic meals and food vendors when traveling abroad, like asking the locals where their favorite places to eat are and to be open to experiencing cuisines that you wouldn't expect to have when traveling to different countries. For instance, Andrew mentioned that some of the best Italian food that he's ever tried was in Japan and the best Chinese food he's ever had was in Thailand. Always be open to stepping out of your comfort zones when looking to find a great culinary experience, and definitely look for the places that try to use the freshest ingredients.

On the same topic of finding the freshest ingredients, we all touched on the topic about educating the younger generation about the importance of eating healthier and more traditional foods as opposed to fast foods. It's going to be a long battle before the whole country is onboard with the idea of eating fresher, seasonal, and local ingredients; but these chefs are definitely helping me spread the good word about the movement.

Check out some photos below from the panel event and also stay tuned to my Twitter feed (@MarcusCooks) for more photos from the NYCWFF.

What was your best dining experience?

Photos: Cyndi Amaya