Chef Scott Crawford Shares How to Travel Like a Foodie

Chef Scott Crawford knows how to eat well when he’s in other countries. Here, he shares his insider travel tips.
As told to Addie Ladner | Photography by Jessica Crawford

Local celebrity chef and community activist Scott Crawford’s career and sense of wonder have taken him to places all over the world — to France, Croatia, and Mexico, to name a few — and when he does, he likes to eat local, and eat well.

Crawford tries not to travel like a typical tourist. Instead, he gets to know locals, takes back roads, and scores indigenous, exotic foods by visiting local markets. With summer in full swing and travel to exotic places slowly becoming an option again, take his lead for trips that immerse and transport you into other cultures and cuisines. Here are 10 tips from chef Scott Crawford on how to travel like a foodie.

What are your top 3 travel tips for folks when going to a new country?

1. Research! Try to learn as much as you can about the history and culture before visiting so that you know what to look out for. In addition to reading books or searching online, be sure to ask friends who have traveled there before for suggestions. 

2. Pack enough clothes for a few days in your carry-on in case the airline loses your luggage. One time, my wife, Jessica, lost her luggage upon arrival at the airport — even if your suitcase is only delayed getting to you, you don’t want to be caught with nothing to wear!

3. Try to learn some of the language of the country you’re visiting — it makes it easier to get around and to order off a menu, too. 

Any surprising airports with good food you‘ve come to know?

Paris has the best airport food I have ever experienced. And P.S., you can get there direct from RDU! It’s a great connection for other places in Europe, like a personal favorite, Croatia.

What’s the best food experience you ever had abroad and what made it so great? 

Everything we’ve ever eaten in Paris! Because no matter where we went, from casual bistro to Michelin star restaurants, the quality was always there. Dining in Paris is also surprisingly affordable.

How do you decide what you’ll cook or eat when traveling? 

It’s really about the local markets, find something you haven’t made before and ask how to prepare it. 

How do you pick the best, most authentic restaurants? 

I ask the locals where they eat! Often they suggest places that aren’t in the guidebooks, and you get a more authentic experience. Find a great tour guide who is native to the country and has peers to connect you with.

What are your favorite restaurants outside of the United States?

Lešić Dimitri in Croatia, Ver Jus in France and Arca in Mexico.

Favorite places you’ve traveled to date and why?

Dubrovnik in Croatia. The therapeutic properties of the Adriatic sea, with its high salinity; you could almost float. I love the region’s friendly people and fresh cuisine. All of these tiny islands are all rooted in tradition which gives so much to explore. Dubrovnik specifically is the cleanest city I’ve been to – it’s pristine. And it’s untouched by commercial development. So when you want an authentic experience Croatia is it. The wine itself is wonderful, we even have some available at the restaurant. I’m actually leading a tour there this summer with Richard Gruica, who is Croatian-American and, as you might have guessed, a chef. With his love for gastronomy, he prioritizes tradition and small producers in his search for the perfect edible journey. He and I have planned this trip to immerse ourselves in the way of life of Croatia. We’ll cook with local chefs in “kitchens” we create ourselves on the coastlines. We will dive for sea urchin, and make black risotto with the ink from cuttlefish. We’ll visit small wineries, meet olive makers, visit salt flats and so much more.

Any unexpected things you travel with?

My kids. We take them everywhere. 🙂

This year, after more than a year homebound, Crawford’s taking a crowd with him to Croatia, on a trip like no other to Northern Croatia and Slovenia. The trip is from August 29 to Sunday, September 5, which you can sign up for here. Crawford says this is a stellar trip for self-professed gastronomes or for someone who wants to explore a new country with beautiful weather, landscape, and happy people. Sign us up!