Chef and artist Jen Monroe knows that truly discovering a place is best done through the flavors that make it special. When she thinks back on her favorite trips, her memories are infused with recollections of favorite bites. From an extraordinary Japanese curry cooked over a campfire on Long Island to snacking on fresh pineapple after snorkeling in the waters of Koh Chang, Thailand, food is the centerpiece of her explorations. “Food is a huge motivator for travel,” she says. “The idea of going somewhere without exciting food seems bizarre.”
From exploring farmers markets to taste what grows nearby and street food to savor the local delicacies to meeting artisan makers and experimental chefs, she has a voracious appetite to discover a destination mouth first. Her advice? “I always try to ask locals, or at least people who have lived in the place you’re visiting,” she says. “Don’t be shy about asking people who work in restaurants where they like to eat—servers, bartenders, hosts, chefs—they’ve usually got solid opinions.”
Hungry to make your own discoveries on your next trip? Jen’s list of 12 foodie destinations around the globe will get you started.