Great cuisine on the fly

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We understand why you eat at Outback Steakhouses during your business travels. You're tired. It's close to the hotel. You know exactly what you're going to get.

But with a little effort, that business trip can be a culinary adventure. Why not find the best po' boy after the convention in New Orleans? Or Seoul, South Korea's best shrimp stew after the client meeting?

Andrew Zimmern swears it's worth the effort. The host of "Bizarre Foods" (the new season just launched on the Travel Channel) said business travelers are some of the most adventurous and curious eaters he's met. But there are plenty who stick to Outback, and for them, he has a simple message: Shake it up.

Q: Do business travelers tend to be adventurous eaters on the road?

A: Maybe five or 10 years ago not so much, but it's radically changing. When I'm flying, a lot of business travelers seek me out. It's gone from, "Man, I can't believe the stuff you eat!" to "When I'm in Singapore, I sneak out to People's Park to a hawker stall." I get my best tips from business travelers.

Q: What's an example?

A: One time I was flying to Asia to

do my Hanoi show. We were not going to go to Cha Ca La Vong, a famous fish restaurant, because we saw it as a touristy place. But there was a guy on the plane who told me he went all the time, and it wasn't as touristy as it's made out to be. We had to go just for the ghosts in the room, he said, and all the history. We ended up shooting there, and it was an incredible experience.

Q: When did business travelers — and travelers in general — start becoming more adventurous eaters?

A: Food experiences are now collected like the way people used to collect Rolex watches. It's not just about eating out in restaurants. It's ethnic markets, street food and single-subject restaurants. It's a fascinating part of our lives right now. Businesspeople, because there's some disposable income involved, can especially see things and become evangelists for what they're eating.

Q: How easy can it be to have an interesting local food experience?

A: There are so many places serving at off hours that if you can't squeeze out a good meal on the road, something's wrong. That said, I've been in small towns where everything rolls up at 8 o'clock.

Q: What's the best way to do it?

A: Ask people at the hotel. Strike up a conversation with a local on the street. I had a list of places to eat po' boys in New Orleans but asked the guys in the hotel anyway. They said Parkway. It was far enough down my list that I may not have gotten to it, but I immediately put it at the top. It was great. You have to make a commitment to get away from the predictable places.

Q: And if you have an expense account, all the more reason, right?

A: Might as well.

Do you have ideas for Business Class about the latest in business travel? Write to Josh Noel at jbnoel@tribune.com. Include "Business Class" in the subject line.

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