Talking with Top Chef winner, Mei Lin
Talk about travel with someone, and chances are, one of the first things they’ll ask you about is the food. So when you’re a chef and you travel, you’re practically guaranteed a conversation centered around the tasty treats and drinks you consumed.
At least that’s what happened during our conversation with Mei Lin, the Season 12 Top Chef champ and (we’re very proud to say) EF Ultimate Break (EFUB) alum.
In the midst of coordinating pop-up dinners and planning her next jaunt out of the country, Mei was awesome enough to talk to us about her favorite travel memories from her time in Spain, France, and Italy, her drool-inducing Instagram feed, and her travel advice.
EFUB: Congrats on winning Top Chef!!! You were right in our backyard during the competition here in Boston! Had you ever been?
Mei: NO! I’d never been to Boston before, but I think Boston is a super cool town, and of course there’s a lot of things you can do there!
EFUB: Now that you’re a Top Chef winner, will it ever be possible for you to just make a grilled cheese again?
Mei: [laughing] It’s really funny that you say that…of course it’s possible for me to make a grilled cheese. A lot of us chefs eat junk food, and after a long day, you don’t exactly want to come home and cook an extravagant meal. I usually eat some instant ramen with whatever I have left in the fridge.
EFUB: What would you say is the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?
Mei: I’m not sure…I grew up in a Chinese household, and I’ve eaten a lot of “weird things”: jellyfish, sea cucumber…I guess some people would view those things as being weird.
EFUB: Do you still keep in touch with people who were on your trip with you?
Mei: Yes, I talk to a lot of the people from my Ultimate Break trip! We all stay in contact via Facebook and Instagram.
EFUB: What do they think of you crushing it on Top Chef?
Mei: A lot of my friends that traveled Europe with me rooted for me throughout the entire season of Top Chef—it was really awesome to see them posting on my wall!
EFUB: Any parallel between Top Chef and Ultimate Break?
Mei: Being on Top Chef and doing Ultimate Break is sort of similar in terms of making friends. You’re in close quarters together for a decent amount of time, so you can’t help but make friends.
EFUB: You’ve said if you could live anywhere, it’d be Paris. Why Paris?
Mei: My love affair with Paris happened when I was on my Ultimate Break trip. It was my first time there. Paris is such an amazing city with so much to do and, most importantly, a LOT of amazing food everywhere. Whether it was pastries, street food, bistros…my mouth was always watering!
EFUB: We love your Instagram (@meilin21)! It reads like a travel journal (filled with food porn, of course).
Mei: Of course! I absolutely love traveling. Traveling and cooking, for me, go hand in hand; without traveling to different places, you don’t get to experience the food of other cultures! You get inspired in the way that you cook. For me, traveling to a different country and learning everything I can about their cuisine will only make me a better and more well-rounded chef.
EFUB: You’ve said that the best advice you got before competing in Top Chef was to “Do what you know.” Do you think that advice extends to other parts of life?
Mei: I think that for me it only applied on Top Chef. For traveling, I think that you should take risks and go to a foreign country and just get lost! Wandering around a city and getting lost is the best way to see it.