10 Fast Food Chains Chefs Love

Whether it’s late at night, straight after a day’s work, or first thing in the morning, there’s nothing quite like a craving for fast food. When you crave a juicy burger, hot fries, crispy tacos or a cheesy pizza, you just have to have it. Luckily, there’s no shortage of stellar fast food joints.

A recent study on eating habits showed that consumers are choosing fast food more often, not only because of convenience, but also because of rising food prices. Chefs are no different than you, whether they’re running a massive hospitality organization, working in a fine-dining restaurant, or behind the collar of your local favorite. They’re headed to their favorite drive-thru for convenience, fast service, and tasty food.

But where are their landmarks? We asked the chefs to cook their favorite fast food chains and share some ordering tips. Here are the fast food places they love, their top orders, and some pro tips for getting a tasty meal.

RELATED: 10 Most Overrated Fast Food Burgers

taco bell double steak grilled cheese burrito
Taco Bell / Facebook

Living más is a popular pick among the fast food chefs we interviewed, with the cheesy, crunchy side of the dishes on the Taco Bell menu being a major factor.

Brian Poe, the chef and owner of the Tip Tap Room and the Crane River Cheese Club in Boston, is a fan of Cheesy Gordita Crunch (we weren’t kidding with cheese and crunch), and says, “I like it so much that when I can I can’t get to a Taco Bell, I recreate it often at the Crane River Cheese Club, the Tip Tap Room, and at home.

“My guilty pleasure fast food product is Taco Bell’s Cheesy Gordita Crunch. It instantly takes me back to my slightly irresponsible late teens and twenties with that first bite,” says Poe. “My advice when ordering is to upgrade your Cheesy Gordita Crunch (they have a ‘do it yourself’ list with extra features) by adding refried beans, extra hot sauce and ranch d’ attorney. Might as well order two or three.

Chief Tobias CoxVP of Dimension Hospitality Group, is also a fan, and for good reason, as he explains, “I started my career at Taco Bell in Littleton Colorado when I was 15, I had to have a special permit to work because of my age.”

“What I learned at Taco Bell was really fundamental to my career. I learned to be fast in everything I did, I learned to deal with great customers and difficult customers, I learned to learned to work and communicate with a team in a fast-paced environment while being organized and willing to learn and do whatever it takes to get the job done,” he shared.

Cox remains a huge fan and is a Mexican pizza enthusiast. He told us, “I joined the hundreds of thousands of fans around the world and wrote a petition to save this amazing dish. Now I’m happy to report that it’s on [the menu] for good and I just got one yesterday.

cane stand box combo extra sauce
Courtesy of Raising Cane

Everyone loves chicken tenderloins, and Raising Cane is some of the best you can get, says Executive Chef Rafael Gonzalez from the JW Marriott Houston Downtown.

“The best tender chicken restaurant! I love the four-piece meal,” Gonzalez raves. “The chicken fillets are huge and tender. I like to swap the coleslaw for another cane sauce (cane sauce is much better than Chick-fil-A’s Polynesian sauce). My kids love the Sweet Tea here.

If you’re a fan of chicken fingers, seek out one of Raising Cane’s more than 670 locations in 38 states across the country, though the chain has the most locations in Texas and California. And don’t skip the restaurant’s predominantly pink Post Malone-designed branch in Utah if you’re in the area.

frosted chocolate wendys
Courtesy of Wendy’s

Cox is also a fan of this burger chain, but not for the item you’d expect! He tells us: “My family and I love going to Wendy’s for an original Frosty.

He even offers a pro tip on how to eat the frozen drink, saying, “Anything can be dunked in a Frosty, especially Wendy’s fries!”

He’s not the only fan. “As for fast food, it would have to be Wendy’s Junior Bacon Cheeseburger,” says nominee James Beard Chief Douglas Williams, owner of Mida and Apizza in Boston told us previously. “More than eating it, I have so many memories of how it was made, of feeling the bun, of the pride I felt making it, and of understanding its simplicity. I can talk about this burger and just smile !

mcdonalds fries
Adobe Stock. Design: Joe Heroun / Eat This, Not That

It’s no surprise to see America’s favorite fast-food chain on this list, but to see it praised by a member of the family who built Delmonico’s in New York is shocking. Max Tuciwhose book ‘The Delmonico Way’, which celebrates his family recipes, told us: “On my current reading tour, I am often asked: ‘growing up in Delmonico and having the best chefs, do you or have you have you ever eaten quickly? food?'”

The answer is yes, says Tucci. “I tell them, I’m making Delmonico steak and getting McDonald’s fries delivered!”

arby's curly fries
Courtesy of Arby

Kristen Kish, winner of Top Chef is a fan of the roast beef sandwich chain, but not for the sandwiches. The chef, who admitted she had a “childish palate”, said “Arby’s Chicken Fingers and Curly Fries are by far the best fast food I think there is”. She went on to explain that “It’s just chicken fingers all day, every day, no matter what fast food I go to, I always gravitate towards fried chicken of some kind.”

shake shack burger with bacon and cheese
Shake Shack / Facebook

We’ve spoken to dozens of chefs who have loved this channel, with Chief Charles Withers, from C Salt in Cape Cod saying he always opts for Shake Shack’s Smoke Shack burger, saying, “It has a bit of heat and tartness from the cherry peppers, smoked bacon and American cheese. It hits all the best notes of a delicious dish for me. Executive Chef Aidan McGee of The Dubliner from Boston is also a fan and also opts for extra cheese.

indoor and outdoor dining
In-N-Out Burger / Facebook

It’s not uncommon to hear chefs speak poetically of this West Coast chain that has so far only moved east to Texas. With fresh, never-frozen beef ground from beef in company-owned facilities, fresh-cut fries, and freshly baked buns, In-N-Out is synonymous with quality.

Chef Withers’ favorite is the In-N-Out Double Animal Style, which he’s brought up to par with Shake Shack’s Smoke Shack burger. Other famous In-N-Out fans include celebrity chefs Gordon Ramsaythe end Antoine Bourdain, And Florence Tyler.


Celebrity chef Aarón Sánchezwho appears on Iron Chef America, MasterChef and Chopped, is a fan of Texas chain Whataburger, and it’s all about the sauce.

“Most other places have this special sauce, which is basically ketchup and mayonnaise with flavor.” Whataburger, on the other hand, says Sánchez, uses “a mustard-based dressing. It makes a huge difference when it comes to flavor.

chipotle steak bowl

The burrito and bowl chain isn’t just a favorite of office workers across the country, it also has a fan in Celebrity chef Richard Blais. He not only enjoys his food, but enjoyed the way the business is run, he said, “I’m a big fan of Chipotle in every way, from their [food] and business model. It’s just good company, and we eat a lot of Chipotle at my house.

tropical pollo

Blais also gave a shout out to this Florida chain, which does amazing Caribbean-style food, saying, “I don’t know if you’ve ever had Pollo Tropical, but it’s Caribbean-inspired grilled chicken, plantains, beans and rice, and I could eat them every day. And it’s fast food, but one of my favorite concepts. Pollo Tropical has about 140 locations across Florida and some surrounding states that focus on citrus-marinated chicken and other proteins with a tropical twist.

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