Chef Dan Churchill believes that food and travel create a memorable story


Food and travel can be a perfect pairing. At a recent Hilton Garden Inn event, Chef Dan Churchill believes that this pairing creates a memorable story through the conversations at the table.

What makes a memorable story? In many cases, food and travel come together to create that moment that is forever etched into a person’s recollection. From a nostalgic food to a new discovery, that shareable moment around the table makes a lasting impression. Hotels are finding that they are part of that travel food story.

Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Chef Dan Churchill. The successful author, restaurateur and culinary personality had teamed with Hilton Garden Inn on its launch of new Sophisticated Bites menu items. These three new menu items, Sticky Finger Ribs, Cherry Blossom cocktail and Mason Jar Chocolate Fudge Cake were chosen by Food Network fans. Earlier this summer, fans could vote for their favorite menu choices via the Food Network website. Part of the small plates menu, these dishes reflect culinary trends that the modern traveler demands.

Judy Greer (L) and Dan Churchill speak during the Sophisticated Bites Menu Reveal Event Actress Judy Greer and celebrity chef Dan Churchill of Genius Kitchen’s “Feast With Friends” (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Hilton Garden Inn)

During our conversation, I asked Chef Churchill if he was surprised with the winning Sophisticated Bites menu additions. Chef Churchill thought that these dishes reflect a sense of nostalgia and even comfort that travelers want in their food options. While all the choices were on trend, these particular dishes seemed to offer relatable tastes.

Since these dishes are small, sharable plates, Churchill believes that these dishes promote conservation around the table. Bringing friends and family to the table is important to creating those special memories. What might start as just a way to satisfy a craving can turn into the perfect conversation starter.

Personally, I was a little surprised that fans chose Sticky Finger Ribs as the top sharable appetizer. Ribs are often considered a little messy. With that idea in mind, I asked Churchill if he had a thought about rib messy factor. He considers this type of dish a way of showing confidence in yourself. Like a message in his book, Churchill thinks that having confidence eating a food like ribs shows confidence in yourself. Why not grab a rib, lick your fingers and continue the conversation with your tablemates.

Thinking specifically about food and travel, many families have food/travel traditions. Whether it is a special dessert, like the Mason Jar Chocolate Fudge Cake, while on vacation or a must have food, these traditions become part of the travel narrative. It shows that everyone and every table has a food story.

Looking at the Hilton Garden Inn Sophisticated Bites menu, these dishes blend culinary food trends with those traditional elements. From flavor profiles to better ingredients, travelers want more than just convenience. Churchill believes that travelers are food savvy. From knowing where food comes from to being thoughtful with ingredients, travelers shouldn’t have to sacrifice food choices while traveling.

As a strong voice in the culinary world, Churchill believes that he has a platform to engage people in a broader food conservation. For example, at his New York City restaurant Charley St, ingredients are used in various ways to reduce food waste. Simple ideas like using the whole vegetable, from root to tip, produces less food waste and adds various flavor profiles to a dish. It is a simple concept from the chef world, but one that can be easily adapted at home.

This one aspect is just part of a larger food conversation. Even when traveling, people can be well informed on food choices and options. While Churchill emphasized the idea of “control the controllable,” that concept seamless lends itself to better food education. Whether it is understanding that a colorful plate of ingredients has good nutritional benefit or knowing where food comes, these food concepts are evolving from trends into standards.

When traveling, people don’t need to compromise on their food choices. Whether it is elevated food choices, like the ones at Hilton Garden Inn, or locally sourced, colorful dishes, like the ones at Charley St, travelers can enhance their food story while they travel. The food conversation around the table will continue to flourish.

For fans of Chef Dan Churchill, he has many new projects on the horizon. From his Genius Kitchen programming, like Feast With Friends, to cookbooks and even an oil olive, the chef will be quite busy. In all this projects, he stays true to promoting a food conversation that raises awareness and educates people about food, food culture and the stories that food creates.

The new menu items Hilton Garden Inn Sophisticated Bites Menu join other eclectic menu items. From craft cocktails to small plates, the dining experience caters to the traveler who wants more in the hotel dining options.

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A huge thank you to Hilton Garden Inn and Chef Dan Churchill for taking the time to speak with FoodSided. As I set off on my next food and travel adventure, I wonder what memorable story will be created around the table. Hopefully, it will be a tasty one.