Comfort food. Cheat meal. Guilty pleasure.
Call it what you like — we all have that one dish we can't resist.
Even the most sophisticated palates are not impervious to these tasty transgressions. Regardless of one's culinary training, nutrition intelligence or access to high-end ingredients, sometimes eating bad just tastes too good.
Just ask these eight local award-winning chefs and restaurateurs. Here, they share their favorite drool-worthy indulgences.
Wesley True is a twice-named James Beard semifinalist for Best Chef: Southeast. Currently, he is executive chef at Cleveland's Bald Headed Bistro.
"My favorite thing to eat is a cheeseburger — double patty with American cheese on both patties."
Charlie Loomis is executive chef at The Feed Co. Table & Tavern and the recipient of numerous regional awards. His chicken wing recipe is a nine-time winner of the annual Scenic City Wings competition.
"Fried chicken is my spirit animal. I eat very healthy for the most part but I've never said no to fried chicken. Some of my favorites would be Richard's Southern Fried in Atlanta, Prince's Hot Chicken [Shack] in Nashville, and The Flaming Rooster is really good here in Chattanooga, as well!"
Rebecca Barron, executive chef at St. John's and its companion restaurant, The Meeting Place, is a nationally known chef, recently named a 2019 James Beard semifinalist for Best Chef: Southeast.
"My guilty pleasure is the cheap prepackaged beef ramen. I church it up a little bit, but really it's still 25-cent ramen."
Kenny Burnap, longtime sous chef at St. John's, recently opened his first restaurant, Kenny's Southside Sandwiches, in the former downtown Porkers Bar-B-Que space, and the new venture has already garnered a write-up in Garden & Gun.
"Now that Lamar's fried chicken doesn't exist, my guiltiest pleasure is the cheese Krystal [burger]. I've definitely had cheese Krystals bring me back from some low places."
Cynthia Wood and Antonia Poland are caterers turned restaurateurs. Formerly of Dipped Fresh catering, they recently opened Davis Wayne's, an upscale meat-and-three eatery in Ooltewah's Cambridge Square.
Cynthia: "My guilty food pleasure is Alaskan king crab legs. For Christmas and Thanksgiving, we do seafood. Yeah, [crab legs] are on the healthier end of the food spectrum but I'm usually buying about 25 pounds — and it costs like $1,000. That's why I feel guilty."
Antonia: "For me, it's lobster mac 'n cheese. I actually can't eat gluten or dairy, so it might make me sick, but it's always worth the sacrifice."
Bruce Weiss is the longtime owner of River Street Deli, a New York-style delicatessen and sandwich shop that has been serving Chattanooga since 1998.
"Last summer I had a heart attack. I had to have a triple bypass, so I had to change my eating habits. I didn't really give anything up, I just eat in moderation now. But if I went somewhere and ordered a big steak, that would be a guilty pleasure. Not only do I feel a little guilty, but I have to think — am I hurting myself?"
Andrea Cagle is owner of Kozy Cooking Catering in Red Bank. In 2013, she was selected to cook for President Barack Obama at his inauguration.
"One of my guilty pleasures is cheese, particularly a wonderful blue cheese paired with a glass of malbec. I'm indulging in something that I don't want to share. It's all mine! I feel a little guilty keeping it all to myself."