The latest episode of CNN's Culinary Journeys series features chef Michael White, as he takes us on a guided tour of the best delis, restaurants, markets and farms in New York City and upstate, and prepares a Fourth of July feast for friends.
Originally from Wisconson, White fell in love with Italian food as a young chef and spent several years working in Italy. Though he has restaurants all over the world, it's New York that has his heart, a place, White says, where the availability of exceptional produce means he can recreate the best Italian dishes – almost perfectly.
Watch the episode in three parts below and read our interview with White, where he explains just what makes New York so special:
Tell us about your culinary journey?
I’m very familiar with the show and being fortunate to have restaurants in different parts of the world – Istanbul, London and Hong Kong – I was excited to participate and wanted to show the viewer my New York. A lot of times people think New York is this big metropolis, which it is, but at the same time just a few miles outside you’re in the Hudson Valley, where there are beautiful strawberries and farm to market food. There’s the ability for a chef such as myself to get the best of the best. I can reproduce Italian food that’s very, very close – not the same – but extremely close. Also, restaurants down in Houston [Street] that I like to go for amazing pastrami and corned beef.
What was the highlight of the journey for you?
The highlight was really showing the diversity of what New York has to offer. The multi-ethnicity and the vast variety of food out here – obviously we were only able to show a very small part of it. What’s really fun to show is that everybody’s culinary vision of the city is different, because everyone has different palettes, memories and experiences, and that’s what makes New York so, so interesting. Talking with peers, going out and having these cool experiences – you learn so much. It’s really a melting pot, which is a clichéd term, but it’s good stuff and I wanted to show that.
How has the New York food scene changed since you started out?
Social media has changed the game exponentially. Not just food, virtually everything: fashion, travel, what you do for a living. It’s probably the biggest thing. In New York City there’s a voracious appetite to see what’s new and that keeps the diner so charged to keep going out and seeing new food and exploring. That’s really the exciting part.
How do you think the introduction of the $15 minimum wage will affect the restaurant industry in New York?
The fact that they already talk about it in the news means that young people that are coming to the restaurant already think it’s there. We’re paying top dollar already, so it’s a conundrum and you can’t raise prices so high, because the consumer is not ready for it. It’s very tough. But, the same thing has happened in London too, it’s everywhere.
If we gave you a blank cheque for a culinary journey, where would you go and why?
That’s a really tough question! I’m very fortunate to have travelled to many places. I would love to do a trip to the Faroe Islands. I’ve travelled to South East Asia and Europe, but that’s somewhere that I haven’t been. A tour of the Faroe Islands, with a fishing expedition!
Culinary Journeys airs on CNN International at the times below:
Saturday 23 July at 0530 BST and 1630 BST
Saturday 30 July at 1230 BST
Sunday 31 July at 0530 BST
Monday 1 August at 0400 BST