The Daily Meal caught up with chef Ben Pollinger to learn about how his travels have influenced his work. Pollinger is the executive chef at Oceana Restaurant in New York and his dishes have received top reviews from The New York Times and Gourmet. He has worked in both domestic and foreign kitchens with stints at Alain Ducasse’s Le Louis XV in Monte Carlo and Christian Delouvrier’s Les Celebrites and Lespinasse in New York. He has also worked with Michael Romano at Union Square Café and Floyd Cardoz at Tabla. Oceana has maintained a Michelin star rating since 2006.
The Daily Meal: What has been your most inspirational food experience while traveling?
Ben Pollinger: I was a guest chef at a seafood festival on the Atlantic coast of Ireland. I wanted to use periwinkles in a dish but the local fishmonger didn’t have them. So I grabbed a sack and went out onto the rocks at low tide and collected about 10 pounds myself, as well as a few limpets. It was so rewarding to have harvested my own periwinkles and serve them that night. I also cooked the limpets for myself; they eat like abalone but a little more tender – delicious!
TDM: What’s your favorite kitchen souvenir from your travels?
BP: Two things: a pair of French sea urchin scissors I bought at the Rungis fish market in Paris and the Viking drinking horn I won for cooking the best dessert in an international cooking competition in Reykjavik, Iceland.
TDM: If you could eat your way through one country, which one would it be and why?
BP: India. After working with Floyd Cardoz for more than five years, I can’t imagine not having Indian spices in my arsenal of ingredients. He taught me such a deep understanding of his native cuisine that I’d love to tour the country to eat it firsthand.