Oct 23, 2020 | By Hannah Manton
Big data meets consumer insights, Experience WGSN.
The Mindful Hedonists are making their way through 2020, unapologetically embracing food as a source of pleasure and comfort. We can all relate to that, but Arthur Bovino, WGSN’s new Senior Food & Drink Strategist, took it to a new level after visiting 120 restaurants in just one month.
We caught up with our resident chicken wing expert on career changes, around-the-world pizza pies, and falsa fruit plants. PSA: don’t read if you’re hungry!
Arthur Bovino: I’ve always been a very good and fast eater. When growing up in Hong Kong, if we went out as a family some weekends, I’d eat three breakfasts in one sitting. It’s hard to pinpoint just one childhood memory, so let’s say my passion for food was such that I left a job at The New York Times to go to culinary school for classical French technique and work in restaurants to get the firsthand experience cooking professionally that I craved.
AB: I was obsessed with coffee ice-cream as a kid, but I was also convinced I had tomato sauce running through my veins and given the fact that I used to regularly dip pickles in jars of tomato sauce, you can probably believe that.
AB: Nowadays I could eat sushi and pizza every day. I practically did in 2019 when I finally decided to document how much of it I eat on Instagram on @nycbestpizza. When I counted at the end of the year, I’d eaten 670 slices of pizza from 187 different places during 320 pizza-eating occasions in nine states. For about 10 years I wrote an annual list of the 101 best pizzas in America and I’ve never kicked the obsession. I once collected slices of pizza in my freezer from around America in an attempt to create the perfect pie. Drink-wise, you’ll almost always see a very large iced coffee nearby.
AB: Actually, I also became so interested in Buffalo wings that I wrote two books about them. Buffalo Everything is a history and guide to wings in Buffalo, NY, where they were invented (along with many other food icons from the city – I call it America’s comfort food capital), and the accompanying Buffalo New York Cookbook. So my speciality dish is definitely wings.
AB: Let’s be honest, I ate at more than 120 restaurants in one month while researching the restaurants in Buffalo for my books. I’m a Mindful Hedonist if there ever was one. Sprinkle that with a little Empowered Localist and I’ll have a side of Techno Optimism too, please. Sparkling not still. Thanks!
AB: I’ve been fortunate enough to visit many of the most heralded restaurants in America. For a long time, I was bummed that I never got to go to El Bulli before it closed. I was able to get as close as possible to the experience by scoring tickets to the El Bulli menu that one of my favourite chefs in the world, Grant Achatz, did in his very special restaurant Next in Chicago. I’ve been to Next three or four times for its different menus and would love to go for any new menu. In New York City where I live, Yasuda, where I haven’t been to in years. As far as places I haven’t been, I’d like to check places off the 50 Best List, starting with Mirazur in France and Mugaritz in Spain.
AB: I’m fascinated by how science is being applied to food, especially when it comes to meat alternatives, but many things I research or write about I end up manifesting in my own life. If I’m writing about burgers, I’m making burgers. Over the past few months, I’ve stocked up on protein powder, experimented with whole-lemon lemonade and bought an Indian falsa fruit plant all because of reports I’m working on.
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