The Untold Truth Of The Best Thing I Ever Ate

What's the best thing you've ever eaten? If you can't name a food off the top of your head, perhaps you need some inspiration. If so, look to "The Best Thing I Ever Ate," a television show that began as a Food Network special and turned into a long-running program that eventually moved to the Cooking Channel.

On "The Best Thing I Ever Ate," famous cooks from around the world share some of their favorite restaurants and the dishes they ordered that stand out in their minds as the best thing they've ever eaten. Of course, by definition, only one dish can be the best thing someone's ever eaten, so over the show's run, producers organized the program into categories for each episode, allowing chefs to name their favorite fried food, dessert, snack, appetizer, and so on.

The popular show has covered the United States coast to coast, giving viewers a guide to unbelievably good food, but there's more to learn about the program than what we've seen on television. This is the untold truth of "The Best Thing I Ever Ate."

A lot of famous chefs and food personalities have been on the show

"The Best Thing I Ever Ate" features some of Food Network and beyond's most-recognizable faces. The chefs never highlight their own dishes, but rather share what they know about certain cooking techniques and cultures, and detail how a certain restaurant has made that dish particularly well. To give viewers a variety of taste opinions, over 100 chefs and cooks have been featured on the show.

Some of the most famous chefs featured on the show have included Bobby Flay, Wolfgang Puck, and Martha Stewart. Flay, who's been on the show multiple times, was fittingly featured in the "Grilled" episode; Puck has shared his opinions on episodes such as "High Steaks" and "Genuine Legends;" and Stewart appeared on several episodes, including "Let's Do Lunch" and "Asian Sensations."

Some chefs are a little more accustomed to the show and have been featured in over 40 episodes, like Duff Goldman and Alex Guarnaschelli. Some of the episodes that they've been in simultaneously include "Desert Island Dish" and "Asian Sensations." On "Desert Island Dish," Guarnaschelli said of Paella Valenciana, "I could live off of just this dish for years." We'd love to try it.

It hasn't hit all 50 states

Food Network and the Cooking Channel are both known for shows that travel around the country to find good food. But "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" doesn't showcase just good food. It showcases the best food, which you might expect to be exclusively in places known for world-class food, like New York City and Los Angeles. And though those places have been featured several times over on the show, cities in less populated states like Ohio and Indiana have been promoted, as well.

Some states haven't been featured at all, though, according to an unofficial map. States like South Dakota and Kansas have yet to be featured on "The Best Thing I Ever Ate," which could be for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the cooks who've been on the show don't frequent those states. Or maybe they visited and didn't like the food. We may never know.

We are more inclined to guess it's the former, though, because restaurants from both South Dakota and Kansas have been highlighted on Food Network shows. For example, Guy Fieri dedicated an entire episode of "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" called "South Dakota Smorgasbord" to Rushmore State fare (granted it was the last state in the union he visited). And if food is good enough for Fieri, it's good enough for us.

There's an all-star spinoff

Reality shows, especially cooking shows, seem to often feature all-star versions, like "Chopped All Stars" and "All-Star Gingerbread Build." Given this affinity, it's unsurprising that producers created a "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" all-star spinoff. Though, since it's not a competition show, the format is a bit different.

Per Food Network, "All-Star Best Thing I Ever Ate" featured some of Food Network's best-known chefs like Guy Fieri, Alex Guarnaschelli, Bobby Flay, and Alton Brown. Like in the original show, the cooks spoke about their favorite foods from various restaurants, but they were also filmed sharing their versions at home.

In one episode, Anne Burrell gushed about her favorite pizza from Lou Malnati's in Chicago, Illinois. However, much to the surprise of anyone familiar with Chicago-style pizza, Burrell is partial to thin crust. "I'm a huge appreciator of the Lou's thin crust," she said.

Duff Goldman brought viewers to The Corner Stable in Columbia, Maryland to discuss its version of surf and turf. "Instead of getting a steak and a lobster tail, you get a giant rack of ribs with a huge ball of a crab cake ... I dare you not to order one," Goldman challenged viewers.

Some restaurants featured on the show have since closed

It's tough for a restaurant to stay in business, especially if it isn't a chain. Whether It's due to economic hardships, staff turnover, or a chef regime change, restaurants close, and that includes restaurants that Food Network chefs love. Some of the spots featured on "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" have closed since they were featured on the show.

One of those restaurants is New York City's bygone staple The Red Cat. The Red Cat was led by chef Jimmy Bradley for nearly 20 years, per The New York Times, and it was featured on the "Totally Fried" episode. The restaurant was nestled in Chelsea, and it was closed by Bradley's choice. "We've had a great run, and I'm certain there's another great chapter for me," he said.

Another New York City staple that closed is The Spotted Pig. The Spotted Pig, featured on the episode "With My Hands" for its deviled eggs, closed after decades in business due to allegations of sexual harassment leveled against one of the restaurant's owners, per The New York Times.

One of the featured chefs has since died

"The Best Thing I Ever Ate," as noted, has featured over 100 chefs, all of them known for putting their own mark on the culinary world. Unfortunately, one of the chefs from the show has since died. After a long career in the culinary arts, Australian chef Kerry Vincent died after living with an illness, per a Facebook post.

Vincent was known for her baking chops, and was often referred to as Queen of Cake, per CinemaBlend. The baker judged for and hosted shows like "Food Network Challenge" and "Save My Bakery," the latter of which only lasted one season.

Vincent also left her mark on "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" by appearing in four episodes, including "French Favorites" and "Finger Food." While on the former episode, the Australian cook highlighted the crawfish etouffee at Robin's in Henderson, Louisiana. "When I think of really great French food, I think of Cajun French," she said, adding that crawfish etouffee is her favorite Cajun dish.

Prior to her death, Vincent founded the Grand National Wedding Cake Competition and was even featured on the cover of American Cake Decorating for her accomplishments in the field.

Some of the featured restaurants are perfect for celebrity sightings

If you don't trust the chefs' recommendations on "The Best Thing I Ever Ate," perhaps the celebrity endorsements will catch your interest. Many of the show's featured restaurants are expensive and exclusive, and with high prices and a tight reservation, list comes celebrities, particularly actors, musicians, and athletes. If you choose the right restaurant and are able to get in, you might just see a star.

One such restaurant is La Scala in Beverly Hills. La Scala has been in the posh California community for over 60 years, and it's known for its Italian food, per Los Angeles Magazine. It was mentioned on the "Old School" episode of the show for its chopped salad, and it's served legitimate legends over its years of service, including Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. Obviously, you won't see those ladies dining out anymore, but plenty of other rich and famous patrons can be found at La Scala.

Another famous and fabulous restaurant that's been featured in "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" is Balthazar in New York City. This famed restaurant was name-dropped by Bobby Flay on an episode for its french fries. Per Eater, some of its clientele have included Victoria Beckham, Awkwafina, and Jared Leto. Perhaps not as famous as Monroe and Taylor, but famous nonetheless.

One restaurant was involved in a scandal

We can't say for sure, but we imagine that when producers began filming "The Best Thing I Ever Ate," they did not predict that one restaurant featured on the show would be involved in a bizarre scandal.

In one episode of the show, Koko Tea Salon & Bakery was named for its red velvet cupcakes that, per Columbus Monthly, use beet juice to achieve the red color instead of food coloring. "I love tea and originally wanted to do a tea salon with tea-infused cupcakes, but the cupcakes themselves took off," Ava Misseldine, the baker behind the business, said.

Years after the bakery was featured on "The Best Thing I Ever Ate," Misseldine was arrested on account that she allegedly stole the identity of a deceased infant and had been using the name for various reasons such as attending college, getting a passport, and receiving government aid amid the COVID-19 pandemic, per The Daily Beast.

Misseldine was arrested in June 2022 and as of August 2022, has yet to be convicted of the alleged crimes, and could potentially serve 30 years in prison. If Misseldine was able to evade authorities for nearly two decades, we can't blame Food Network for missing the baker's fraudulent activity.

Some of the restaurants have Michelin stars

Not all restaurants on "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" are gourmet, which is a plus for viewers who don't have access to such food. But some of the restaurants on the show are gourmet. And we totally understand why. Gourmet food is, well, gourmet, and epicureans such as the chefs opining on the show have an affinity for it.

Even though many of these restaurants are gourmet, not all have a particularly coveted appellation: Michelin-starred. Only the finest restaurants are worthy of a Michelin star, just over 2,600 in the entire world have at least one, per Fine Dining Lovers. By comparison, there are over 15 million restaurants in the entire world, per TheWebMiner.

A few eateries from "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" have been mentioned in the Michelin guide, like Barbuto and Balthazar. Others have been given Michelin stars. For example, Jean-Georges, a two-star restaurant in New York City, was mentioned in the episode "Chocolate" for its chocolate-tasting menu, while Daniel NYC, another two-star place, was noted in the episode "Last Supper" for its pressed duck. Both restaurants are still in business today.

Not every restaurant is super expensive

Though many restaurants featured on "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" are a little spendy, not all are. Believe it or not, some of the show's chefs like to indulge in affordable fare just as much as they like fine dining, and the show featured a "Bang for the Buck" episode where the cooks mentioned restaurants that those of us who are not operating on a Food Network salary can afford to dine at.

One such restaurant is Phillipe The Original in Los Angeles, California. Known for its French dip, Wolfgang Puck noted how delicious this sandwich is. The best part? It's still in business, so Californians and tourists can pay a visit whenever they'd like.

Pat and Gina Neely from "Down Home With The Neelys" shared their love for Memphis, Tennessee's The Butcher Shop Steak House, where they were able to eat a decadent steak meal for $15. "The thing that we love most about it is that we're not sacrificing the quality of food. I'm telling you, this is a high-quality cut of steak," Pat Neely said of the dining experience. The restaurant is still open, though it's unclear if it still offers its famous $15 steak meal.

Some unique items have been featured

"The Best Thing I Ever Ate" has aired over 140 episodes, so producers have had to get creative with their food categories. One of the most unique categories comes from the "Frightfully Good" episode. No, this doesn't mean food you might see at a Halloween party. This is food you probably wouldn't expect to see anywhere.

One such food featured was a pig brain sandwich from the Hilltop Inn in Evansville, Indiana. Chef Simon Majumdar raved about this dish saying, "It has the best taste, they've been doing it for years, and they're entirely unapologetic about what it is." They definitely deserve credit for that.

Another frightful food featured in the episode was a lamb face salad, which the cook ate at Xi'an Fmous Foods in New York City. Though the restaurant is still operating, per its menu, lamb face salad is no longer available.

Taco Tuesday anyone? If you're a fan of the frightful and also love tacos (we presume most are only on one side of that Venn diagram), you may want to try recreating the duck tongue tacos from Extra Virgin in Kansas City, Missouri. Though that dish was featured on the episode, it seems this restaurant has since updated its menu, removing any mention of duck. Roasted bone marrow seems to be its gnarliest dish now, but we're not sure that would've made the cut for the episode.