Celebrity Chefs And The Fast Food Restaurants They Can't Get Enough Of

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Sure, fast food is one of the most frequently advertised and aggressively marketed things under the sun, but if it didn't taste really good, in all of its many forms, nobody would buy it. Because that's the reality of it all. Be it cheeseburgers, pizza, wings, fried chicken, fish and chips, burritos, shakes, roast beef sandwiches, or any of the many other readily and cheaply available offerings via a delivery service or drive-thru, fast food is almost always loaded with salt, saturated fat, and sugar. Those also happen to be the dietary substances that make it taste good. Because it's so simple and so popular, quick-serve fare bears the reputation of being lowbrow or low-class, worthy of derision or dismissal or not deserving of the acclaim and joyful praise hoisted upon America's top chefs.

But here's a twist: Some of the most notable chefs and respected TV food personalities happen to love fast food, and specific items at specific chains, in fact. Here are some big food names who came clean with the public and admitted what fast food items they adore.

Justin Sutherland puts his Arby's and KFC together

One of the most engaging and omnipresent food people of the 2020s, Justin Sutherland has opened restaurants like Handsome Hog, The Gnome, Woodfire Cantina, and Chickpea Hummus Bar while also being all over TV, winning "Iron Chef America," placing highly on Season 16 of "Top Chef," and hosting and cooking on TruTV's "Fast Foodies." The latter requires the chef to both re-create and elevate familiar, populist chain restaurant eateries for celebrity guests. Sutherland told Mashed that he thought he did particularly well on challenges revolving around Wendy's Spicy Chicken Sandwich and the Portillo's hot dog.

But when Sutherland wants to feed himself with something inexpensive that's both quickly and widely available, he likes to combine the signature offerings of two different fast food joints. "I like to get a Beef and Cheddar from Arby's, and then I like to go to KFC and get the gravy and put the Beef and Cheddar in the gravy from KFC," he said. "KFC, whatever they do with that gravy, I still can't figure it out."

Jacques Torres is a Shake Shack fan

While he's likely best known to international audiences as the resident expert and voice of reason on Netflix's baking disasters competition series "Nailed It!," Jacques Torres is a world-class pastry chef and master chocolate craftsman who earned the nickname "Mr. Chocolate." In the 1980s, he worked his way up to executive pastry chef at the Michelin-starred Hotel Negresco in his native France and, at 26, became the youngest chef in history to earn the rare Meilleur Ouvrier de France award in the pastry category. He then worked as the corporate pastry chef for Ritz-Carlton and created desserts for the iconic Le Cirque restaurant in New York.

His work is as highbrow as food can be, but Torres won't shy away from the fast food enjoyed by the masses, out of necessity if not enjoyment. "I have a five-year-old and a three-year-old, and a lot of time, what do they want? They want fast food. I want to go to Shake Shack and they want to go to McDonald's," Torres told Mashed in 2022. "[Shake Shack is] good and it's fast, but at the end of the day, the family time around the table, eating with the kids, is fun."

Kristen Kish will have the chicken fingers

Chef Kristen Kish exudes a duality with food not seen with most culinary personalities, who generally specialize in one kind of cuisine or approach so as to carve out a niche for themselves and demonstrate their expertise. But Kish is good at a lot of things, and she enjoys many different types of food, both fancy and not so fancy. For example, Kish won Season 10 of "Top Chef," opened Arlo Grey (one of Austin's most acclaimed restaurants), and published "Kristen Kish Cooking: Recipes and Techniques." But she also hosts "Fast Foodies" on TruTV, where, alongside chefs Justin Sutherland and Jeremy Ford, she re-creates, celebrates, and puts new spins on widely loved fast food items.

Kish loves some fast food herself. She's a self-proclaimed Arby's aficionado, but not for the chain's signature roast beef sandwiches. "My favorite fast food always is Arby's," Kish told Mashed in 2021. "Chicken fingers and curly fries are by far the greatest fast food I think is out there." She doesn't dislike Arby's beef; it's just that she loves chicken fingers that much. "No matter what fast food place I go to, I always gravitate towards the fried chicken of some kind."

Duff Goldman still stops at Sheetz for a sub

Sheetz isn't really a fast food restaurant in the traditional sense. It's a chain of extra-large convenience stores open 24 hours a day that sell the usual fare of packaged snacks and bottled drinks along with a wide array of hot food, customizable sandwiches, and other made-to-order items. Several hundred outlets stretch across the Ohio-Pennsylvania-Virginias-Carolinas area, which also happens to be the home region of Duff Goldman, Food Network personality, "Ace of Cakes" star, novelty cake crafter, and proprietor of Charm City Cakes in Baltimore, Maryland.

Goldman has a deep and abiding love of meatballs; his wedding cake was made of meat, and the base consisted of meatballs, according to Martha Stewart Weddings. And Goldman enjoys what Sheetz does with the compact protein bundles. His favorite quick-serve item is the Sheetz meatball submarine-style sandwich. "Do you think anyone likes our meatball subs more than Duff Goldman," the chain rhetorically asked Twitter in 2022.

McDonald's? Paul Hollywood is loving it

Some might say Paul Hollywood isn't a chef because he doesn't cook savory entrees in a professional kitchen. But he's ascended to the absolute top of the world of baking, creating desserts and bready treats for major and fancy hotels throughout Europe (per The Daily Mail) before publishing the bestselling cookbook "100 Great Breads," hosting the series "Use Your Loaf," and positioning himself as an expert (and global celebrity) as a judge for more than decade on "The Great British Bake Off."

Because his professional life revolves almost entirely around sweets — devising them, baking them, eating them, judging them — he'll occasionally get a hankering for something from the other end of the taste spectrum. "I crave salt," he told Radio Times (via What to Watch) in 2012. After filming the Christmas special of "The Great British Bake Off," he and fellow judge Mary Berry stopped off at a McDonald's drive-thru to satiate his urge. "I'd been eating cakes all day and had a big craving." His go-to order: McDonald's signature pairing of a Big Mac and a large portion of its popular french fries.

Michael Psilakis needs a little KFC

Greek-American chef Michael Psilakis made a name for himself cooking traditional Greek cuisine, but he became famous and acclaimed after his appearances on food shows like "Iron Chef America," "The Best Thing I Ever Ate," and "No Kitchen Required." For nearly two decades, Psilakis ran a string of restaurants on New York's tony Upper West Side, such as Onera, Kefi, Fishtag, and Anthos. His work at the latter earned him "Chef of the Year" recognitions from Esquire and Bon Appétit, as well as his first Michelin Star.

Associated with well- and slow-prepared homestyle cooking and exclusive fine dining alike, Psilakis will very occasionally make some space in his diet for fast food fried chicken. "I treat myself to KFC about three times a year," he told Esquire. His standard order during those occasional excursions is an entire bucket of the Colonel's famous fried chicken, which is all about one element for Psilakis. "I love that crunchy fried crust. It's like the crumb on top of crumb cake; the chicken is an afterthought, really."

Richard Blais has strong feelings for Chipotle

Fans of food television have borne witness to the many different sides of chef and restaurateur Richard Blais' personality. A "Top Chef" finalist who won the series' first "All-Stars" season, Blais took himself and his cooking very seriously, incorporating innovative and progressive molecular gastronomy techniques. He's also published a book on home cooking and hosted several humorous, lighthearted cooking competition shows for Food Network. But long before he opened edgy, high-end restaurants like Trail Blais and The Spence, the chef got his start in fast food: He got his first cooking job in a McDonald's kitchen. "And the first batch of Filet-O-Fish sandwiches that I served when I was 14, I forgot to put the top buns on them," Blaise told Mashed in 2022. "So I was being avant garde well before I knew that that was my actual calling in the kitchen."

Golden Arches notwithstanding, Blais cited a Mexican-inspired eatery and a Florida-based chicken chain as his fast food preferences. "I'm a big fan of Chipotle from every which way," Blais said. "We eat a lot of Chipotle in my house." The other: "I don't know if you've ever had Pollo Tropical, but it's Caribbean inspired grilled chicken, and plantains, and beans and rice, and I could eat it every single day."

Tim Love has a lot of love for Whataburger

According to his website, chef and TV personality Tim Love makes "urban western cuisine," or gussied-up barbecue, steakhouse favorites, and other foods strongly associated with his home state of Texas. He's opened restaurants with those foods and goals in mind across the country, including Lonesome Dove Western Bistro and Woodshed Smokehouse in Texas and Love Shack, a no-nonsense, high-quality burgers-and-fries spot found in the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport among other unpretentious locales.

Love obviously knows his way around a burger, and what makes a fast food one particularly tasty. And as far as he's concerned, nobody makes a better one at the low-priced, readily available consumer level than Whataburger, a Texas-based and proudly Texas chain with more than 700 locations in the state. "It's like a fresh, clean, Texas version of McDonald's," Love explained to Esquire. When he goes to Whataburger, Love's favorite order is the signature Whataburger with cheese, bacon, and jalapeños added, along with a side order of a couple of sausage-and-egg taquitos.

There's nothing bizarre about Andrew Zimmern's appreciation for Culver's

Chef and restaurateur Andrew Zimmern has made a career out of hitting the road to see what foods might taste good, particularly those perceived to be odd or exotic. He's tasted all kinds of new things on shows like "Bizarre Foods," "Driven by Food," "Bizarre Worlds," and "The Zimmern List," but when he's out on the highways of the world and gets hungry between taping episodes, he seeks out an outlet of Culver's, a moderately sized fast food chain that specializes in three comforting, familiar, regional specialties — frozen custard, their signature ButterBurgers, and cheese curds. Frozen custard is an airier version of ice cream because it's whipped and is made with egg yolks, according to Southern Living; ButterBurgers are hamburgers with the top buns garnished with melted butter, and cheese curds are breaded and deep-fried balls of cheese.

"I have a weakness in my heart for Culver's. It's a family favorite," Zimmern told The Daily Meal. "It's a mid-Western chain that does custard really well and does hamburgers pretty decently." Zimmern's favorite combination at Culver's: a Double ButterBurger and a Vanilla Concrete frozen custard.

Guy Fieri is an In-N-Out loyalist

Including the flames on his shirt and classic sporty convertible, Guy Fieri's whole vibe is about speed and all-American comfort food and where those two things converge. As the host of Food Network's long-running restaurant travelogue series "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives," he's visited hundreds of small, independent restaurants serving up all manner of unabashedly calorie-rich, crowd-pleasing favorites. Those same kinds of foods are the ones Fieri prepares on his various Food Network cooking shows and serves in his elevated brewpub and fast food-skewing restaurants, including Guy's Burger Joint, Chicken Guy, and Guy Fieri's Pizza Parlor.

But when somebody at a restaurant he doesn't own or isn't patronizing for "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" is flipping the burgers and plunging the fry baskets, Fieri enjoys the menu at Danny Meyer's Shake Shack, but the California native enjoys a West Coast chain's burgers just a little bit more. "I love Danny Meyer, but In-N-Out," Fieri told First We Feast. "Shake Shack's phenomenal, but there's something about growing up around In-N-Out."

The only fast food Ina Garten will eat is In-N-Out

Before she became one of Food Network's most famous and influential personalities, cooking elaborate and often very expensive food from her coastal northeastern mansion, Ina Garten, the "Barefoot Contessa" herself, ran a Hamptons gourmet grocery store also called "Barefoot Contessa." Garten's tastes and expertise levels lean toward the fresh, festive, and decidedly highbrow — in other words, not fast food.

Garten admitted to NBC's "Today" in 2017 that she rarely, if ever, partakes in any of the drive-thru-obtained, paper-wrapped, quickly prepared, and inexpensively sold fast food that helps define the modern American diet. "I have to say, I don't eat fast food at all, with one exception," Garten said. She writes a lot of cookbooks and embarks on national publicity tours to promote them, and those travels take her to the West Coast, home of many locations of a particular burger chain. "When we're in California doing book tours, we always have to go to In-N-Out Burger. It's so good and I know it was Julia Child's favorite too, so it's okay."

Julia Child enjoyed In-N-Out, McDonald's, and Burger King

Like In-N-Out, which opened its first store in 1948 in the Los Angeles-adjacent burg of Baldwin Park, Julia Child was a Southern California native, too, born and raised in Pasadena. One of the most important and pioneering figures in 20th-century American food culture, Child co-wrote the demystifying 1961 kitchen manual "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and then hosted one of the first popular cooking instructional shows in "The French Chef," according to the Los Angeles Times. She'd write more books and host many more shows and would forever be associated with top-notch meals made out of expertly prepared and high-quality ingredients.

Child also really enjoyed fast food hamburgers and fries. In a 2002 appearance on CNN's "Larry King Live," Child admitted that she enjoyed McDonald's, among others. "There's another one called the In-N-Out Burger that I like, too. We have lunch here or there," Child explained. "But I think the McDonald's could be very good, too, and so can Burger King. But the Burger King's french fries are very good, I think."

Alton Brown can get down with some In-N-Out

Over decades of his professional life, Alton Brown has pursued about every possible angle there is with regards to food. In order to get the training, experience, and knowledge to make his food TV shows viable, Brown trained at a culinary school and worked in professional kitchens. "I never worked higher than a lead cook. I could have moved to sous chef positions, but I didn't want to tell people I was going to stay that long," he told The AV Club. From there, it was on to Food Network, where he hosted more than 250 episodes of Food Network's "Good Eats," a scripted, comic cooking instructional show that investigated the scientific hows and whys of food. He's since hosted multiple versions of "Iron Chef" and "Cutthroat Kitchen," among other projects, meaning Brown has a pretty deep knowledge about food, and his opinions about things like fast food can be taken seriously.

According to Brown, the fast food burgers that get him more excited than any other are the ones from In-N-Out. "The hamburger is definitive, greasy but oddly clean-tasting at the same time and the sauce is actually 'special,'" he told Esquire. "And the shake tastes the way shakes tasted back when I was a kid."