What’s the best trip Dean Fearing has ever taken?
I love to travel. One of the best trips was years back. The assistant maître d’ of the Mansion on Turtle Creek was named Alex, and he was from Bangkok. A friend of mine, who I went to school with at the Culinary Institute, who was also at the time a chef here in Dallas, and I were like, “Shoot, we’re single. Let’s go on a real exotic vacation.” We both had three weeks off and Alex was with us one night in this bar when we were talking about it. He goes, “Let’s go to Bangkok.” I was like, “Wow, I’ve never been.” He was like, “Yeah. I’ll get you set up at the Oriental Hotel [now Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok], and then we can just do this food sanctuary there.” It was the best.
I had never been to the Far East, so we jumped on a plane. We get out there and a Bentley picks us up from the airport from the hotel. We’ve got a great room overlooking the city and the river, and all of that. Alex proceeds to take us for lunch and dinner to all of these local places, no tourist attractions. Alex just showed us the city and the countryside firsthand and through his eyes. It was amazing. It was the discovery of eating true Asian food. It was the greatest trip ever for two young, single guys and up-and-coming chefs on our own. It was really a taste sensation.
My conclusion to the whole trip was that the only thing Bangkok did have that we didn’t have was ginger. They had the cilantro, the lime, the mangos, the chilies — all of those flavors of what Texas was in its Southwest form was exactly like Thailand, except for the use of ginger and soy sauce and their styles of vinegar. It was just such an eye-opening experience to see this culture that you’ve only read about or seen in pictures. To be there and truly understand it from a person who lived there his whole life — wow, that was the start of great trips. There’s been a hundred more after that. It was the eye-opener of what the world was all about and what this world is about.