The 5 Best US Cities for Foodies & Aspiring Chefs

As an aspiring chef, your kitchen is filled with gourmet cooking utensils and you spend most of your paychecks on obscure ingredients that many people have never even heard of. Your tablet is loaded with cookbooks, and your wish list is filled with knife sets, indoor grills and top-of-the-line appliances.

With such a passion for food, it’s only natural that you want your vacation to include plenty of delicious local flavors. Fortunately, the country is brimming with destinations that are perfect for amateur chefs and foodies alike.

Be sure these cities are at the top of your list:

1. Portland, Oregon

Described by The Dig as “foodie heaven,” Portland is well-known for its amazing wineries, funky cafes filled with fresh and local dishes, and plenty of food carts. Located about 90 minutes from the coast, Portland is home to tons of amazing seafood restaurants where fresh fish is always the order of the day. The residents have an adventurous attitude about food, willing to gobble down a bubblegum donut from Voodoo Doughnut or fiery Thai dishes from a food cart. Aspiring chefs will be inspired by the use of fresh and locally grown ingredients as well as the “think outside of the box” ways to prepare them.

2. Honolulu, Hawaii

Honolulu is paradise for foodies. As Huffington Post notes, the city is the nexus of Western and Asian culture and cuisine, which means you can find classic rice dishes served with fresh fish, along with classic steakhouses. The Pacific waters offer plenty of fresh seafood, and crops include pineapple and macadamia nuts. Aspiring chefs will appreciate the way local ingredients are used as much as possible, as well as the innovative approach many local restaurants take when using them. Macadamia nut pizza, anyone?

3. Atlanta, Georgia

Travel and Leisure named Atlanta among the best cities for foodies, and for good reason. While you can find plenty of classic Southern meals here—think crispy fried chicken served with black eyed peas and peach cobbler—you will also find creative spins on food. Aspiring chefs will adore veal and mushroom meatloaf or Kobe beef hot dogs. Foodies will appreciate the way diners are encouraged to relax and savor their meals.

4. Kansas City, Kansas

This city is virtually synonymous with barbecue, but it’s more than pulled pork and beef brisket dripping with piquant sauce. It’s also a city known for fine dining. Kansas City restaurants have found creative ways to improve on barbecue perfection. Cleaver & Cork, for example, transforms local ingredients into dishes like smoked ribeye served with parmesan potatoes. Aspiring chefs will be inspired by the way restaurants manage to offer delicious food at reasonable prices.

5. San Diego, California

San Diego is home to a growing food scene that involves plenty of local seafood, sushi, and gourmet-casual entrees. The city’s growing number of neighborhoods all come with their own distinct cuisines, which means foodies will stay busy sampling all sorts of flavors. Wander through areas like South Park, North Park, Little Italy, and Hillcrest, and watch for the restaurants with huge crowds—when you spot one, get in line. San Diego also has a growing number of food trucks that serve up a variety of adventurous fare.