Ferran Adrià secretly enjoys an occasional Bollycao, a chocolate-filled Spanish cousin of the Twinkie. Julia Child once admitted that she sometimes ate hot dogs for breakfast, and considered Burger King French fries to be "very good." Auguste Escoffier could never resist pulling into any KFC he passed for a Double-Down.
Actually, I made that last one up. But, hey, who's to say that the father of modern French cooking wouldn't have enjoyed a cholesterol-bomb of fried chicken, bacon, and two kinds of cheese once in a while after a hard day at the Ritz? The point is that many people in the food world — chefs, restaurateurs, writers, and the rest — "eat down," which is to say that they indulge at least occasionally in victuals that are far more commonplace (dare we say "junky"?) than the cuisine they cook themselves or extol in the culinary media.
How do we know? Because we asked a number of our favorite food people — including some who are better known for non-food pursuits but have professional connections to gastronomy (Trisha Yearwood, Boz Scaggs)—to confess their consuming vices to us.
A few of them stonewalled. Mere junk food would never sully their palates, they assured us. Or they confessed to "guilty pleasures" that sounded like something Jillian Michaels would prescribe to a 450-pound bouncer. Nobody actually said "When I'm feeling really naughty, I eat two whole stalks of celery!" but a few folks came close. (An NFL quarterback whose most extreme indulgences are walnuts and grilled chicken?)
A good number of the people we reached out to, though, gave us honest and delicious answers. Bacon made several appearances, of course (from Lydia Shire and Charlie Palmer, among others), as did French fries (among the aficionados: Ed Brown and Amanda Frietag). But there were surprises, as well. Who would have guessed, for instance, that Mario Batali nursed a fondness for chips and salsa, that Alton Brown was a doughnut-hound, that Jean-Georges Vongerichten was mad for chocolate? And Lidia Bastianich and her Reese's Peanut Butter Cups — wow!
We have to stress that we're not in any way criticizing or judging our respondents for their admitted weaknesses. Far from it. First of all, we've got a few candy wrappers and French fry sacks in our own closets. When we polled our editorial staff and some of our regular contributors, some of the same food vices emerged — chief among them burgers (In-N-Out is clearly a favorite), fries, and bacon—but also everything from Kit Kats and Popeye's Spicy Fried Chicken to grilled cheese sandwiches made on inverted bagels and (we quote) "Taco Bell's Spicy Chicken Crunchwrap Supreme, eaten with 15 packets of hot sauce, one packet of hot sauce per bite."
More than that, though, we like the fact that our food heroes have a human side when it comes to satisfying hunger. We like the fact that they sometimes let appetite trump aesthetics — that they sometimes find merit in the imperfect, flavor in the artificiality, virtue in the grease.
Click here for our complete list of The Food World's Secret Vices. (Responses have been edited for consistency and style.)
For more on culinary guilty pleasures — including chain-restaurant recommendations, home recipes for fast-food treats, high-calorie video humor, and more — click here.