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12 Professional Chefs Reveal Their Favorite Fast-Food Items

In order to craft their culinary masterpieces for restaurant goers, professional chefs sometimes have to eat on the run, too.

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Las Vegas,Nevada Dec 11 2015 Two In N Out double cheese burgers with french fries.; Shutterstock ID 1257823408; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHHansPhotoFactory/Shutterstock

Burger time

For her fast-food fix, Teresa Montaño, executive chef of Otoño, a Spanish-influenced restaurant in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, heads to In-N-Out. Her order? A double-double with a side of fries. “Not only is the food great, but I greatly admire their operation as well,” says Montaño, who prefers her burger animals style because of the sweetness of the caramelized onions. “With their tangy special sauce it’s perfect, it hits that pleasure spot in my brain!” Here are 8 things you probably didn’t know about In-N-Out.

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sweet potato fries; Shutterstock ID 307443590; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHSageElyse/Shutterstock

Check mate

For Chef Johanna Hellrigl of Doi Moi in Washington, D.C., fast food is all about the nostalgia. Her favorite menu item is Checkers’ Famous Seasoned Fries, making her sentimental about the old days hanging out in her hometown of Palm Beach, Florida throughout high school and early college years. “The fries are well seasoned and feel battered in texture, which results in some seriously crispy fries,” she says. If there isn’t a Checkers’ near you, try one of these amazing French fry recipes

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arbys restaurant exterior via Haigwood Studios Photography

Sauce is boss

“My favorite fast food chain is Arby’s,” says Terryl Gavre, a San Diego restaurateur who counts Cafe 222 and BANKERS HILL BAR + Restaurant among her properties. “The Arby’s Sauce and the Horsey Sauce are my secret indulgence. I always get the Classic Roast Beef Sandwich without cheese. I don’t want anything to distract from the meat and sauces. The super soft, steam bun with the salty meat and the sweet and savory sauces…it’s a winning combination.” See where Arby’s famous curly fries landed on our French fry taste test.

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RIVER FALLS,WISCONSIN-FEBRUARY 02,2014: Jimmy John's restaurant storefront. Jimmy John's has opened approximately 200 units per year over the last three years.; Shutterstock ID 174622448; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHdigitalreflections/Shutterstock

Hold the bread

When he’s being carb conscious, Nate Gravina, executive chef of Breckenridge Brewery in Colorado, orders Jimmy John’s Gargantuan Unwich (a “sandwich” without bread). “Add some bacon and all the veggies you can cram into that lettuce wrap,” says Gravina. “I usually order these when the pantry is empty or I’ve spent too much time cooking already. These usually last as two meals, and you typically feel a lot better than if you smashed a full sub on a hefty hoagie.” On the other side of the coin, these are the foods some chefs loathe.

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MIAMI, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 10, 2018: Photo of a two SmokeShack® burgers from Shake Shack restaurant in Miami. They were very delicious.; Shutterstock ID 1049731691; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHAirP72/Shutterstock

Shake it

What’s more comforting than a burger? Chef Mike DeCamp of P.S. Steak in Minneapolis is a Shake Shack fan, with his standard order including a Smoke Shack Burger (a double cheeseburger topped with bacon, chopped cherry pepper and Shack Sauce), a chicken sandwich, cheese fries and a 50/50 shake (a vanilla-chocolate combo). “At first it was special because we couldn’t get Shake Shack in Minnesota, but now that it’s here, I love the fact that they source their beef locally,” he says. “They have great combinations that make them more interesting than the standard fast food burger place, also that bun!” If there isn’t a Shake Shack near you, try one of these spot-on copycat recipes

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burger lettuce wrap close up; Shutterstock ID 187104614; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHJoshua Resnick/Shutterstock

West Coast favorite

Among the chefs we interviewed, In-N-Out was the favorite, even for those who strongly prefer to bypass any drive-through. “A lot of fast-food options actually leave me feeling nauseous and guilty about what I had just ate,” says Mindy Oh, executive chef of Mora Italiano in Encino, California. “However, my favorite thing right now is the In-N-Out 3×3 protein style (meaning sans bun). I usually don’t get out of work until late at night, so my eating options are slim. The 3×3 is extremely satisfying, but I don’t feel as guilty when I eat it.” Bad news for those on the other side of the Mississippi: this is why In-N-Out won’t open up shop on the East Coast.

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BANGKOK, THAILAND- FEBRUARY 6, 2019 : Crispy fried chicken & cup of drink served in retail background of KFC restaurant. KFC is popular fast food chain known as Kentucky Fried Chicken. Selective focus; Shutterstock ID 1308118378; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHKULLAPONG PARCHERAT/Shutterstock

Wing it


Sometimes you just can’t beat a chicken wing. Chef Jet Tila, cookbook author of 101 Epic Dishes: Recipes That Teach You How to Make the Classics Even More Delicious, shares, “I love Kentucky Fried Chicken’s hot-wings, no sauce just dry! Chicken wings are my most favorite food in the world, I could eat them every day and never tire. They have the perfect skin-to-fat-to-meat ratio and my family always celebrated over a bucket of chicken. When we were poor, it was a special occasion food as a kid, so I don’t think that feeling has ever left me.” Recreate KFC at home with the secret recipe for their extra-crispy fried chicken.

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two greek gyros with shaved lamb and french fries; Shutterstock ID 658185601; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHJoshua Resnick/Shutterstock

Go Greek

You might not automatically think of Arby’s when you’re searching for Greek food, but it’s the go-to for Jason More, corporate executive chef of Schlotzsky’s Austin Eatery®, when he’s in a rush. “My guilty pleasure is Arby’s Greek Gyro with a side of Seasoned Curly Fries and a Jamocha Shake to wash it down,” he says. “I absolutely love the warm gyro meat in that soft pita bread topped with cold shaved lettuce, tomatoes and red onions slathered with tangy Tzatziki Sauce. It’s one of my secret cravings!”

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Thailand-Nov2017:Big Mac is a hamburger sold by McDonald's.It's consists of two beef, lettuce,cheese, pickles, and onions, served in a three-part sesame seed bun. Illustrative Editorial product photo; Shutterstock ID 1036017343; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHURAIWONS/Shutterstock

Golden Arches

Yes, even professional chefs indulge in McDonald’s every so often, and Henry Pariser, executive chef at Goose Island Clybourn Brewhouse based in Chicago, is no exception. His guilty pleasure is a Big Mac with fries and an Oreo McFlurry. “I enjoy this because of the convenience and I like the sweet and salty and hot and cold combo of the fries and McFlurry. I’m usually eating this on my way home after a long shift at Goose Island’s Brewhouse. I’ll swing through the drive-thru and attempt to eat a Big Mac without making a mess, which is nearly impossible.” To recreate the deliciousness of a Big Mac at home, you’ll need to know what goes into McDonald’s secret sauce.

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Indianapolis - Circa December 2016: Panera Bread Retail Location. Panera is a Chain of Fast Casual Restaurants Offering Free WiFi V; Shutterstock ID 541311784Jonathan Weiss/Shutterstock

Clean eating

“I love the Modern Greek Salad with Quinoa at Panera,” says Abbie Gellman, MS, RD, CDN. “It is full of healthy plant-based protein from toasted almonds and quinoa, plus fiber and Vitamin K from kale and romaine and healthy fats from the Kalamata olives. Topped with feta and tossed with Greek dressing, it tastes great and is an easy way to make your day a little more Mediterranean!” While this salad gets the stamp of approval, you’ll want to steer clear from these fast foods nutritionist never order.

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A meatball sandwich with mozzarella cheese and potato chips; Shutterstock ID 234102088; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHMSPhotographic/Shutterstock

The sub


Ace of Cakes star Chef Duff Goldman heads to Sheetz for his favorite fast food meal. “The two things I love about Sheetz are the bizarrely huge beverage selection and the meatball sub,” he raves. “I like the way the sauce melts into the bread and it gets all saucy and doughy.”

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PENANG, MALAYSIA - JUNE 15, 2017: Wendy's burger set and drink on table. Wendy's is the world's third largest hamburger fast food chain with approximately 6,650 locations.; Shutterstock ID 728643145; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHTY Lim/Shutterstock

Guilty pleasure

Sometimes there’s simply no rhyme or reason to a fast food order, the heart just wants what it wants. For Yankel Polak, head chef at ButcherBox, that means a stop at Wendy’s for no other reason than a couple of beloved menu items after a workout. “For me, it’s always going to be the Spicy Chicken Sandwich and Chicken Nuggets from Wendy’s,” says Polak. I tend to hit the drive-through on the way home from the gym when I’m too beat to cook.” Find out the real reason why Wendy’s burgers are square.

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest

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