On Location Following Kristen Kish to ‘Restaurants at the End of the World
Autumn Sonnichsen/National Geographic for Disney
Style & Culture

On Location: Following Kristen Kish to ‘Restaurants at the End of the World’

From a remote hotel in Svalbard's wilderness to a floating restaurant on one of the world's largest tropical fjords in Brazil.

Lifting the curtain on some of the season's most exciting new releases.

The first episode of Restaurants at the End of the World, a new reality series hosted by Top Chef Season 10 winner Kristen Kish, opens with her behind the wheel of an open-air Jeep. Pompadour tossed back by the wind, she's gushing—"I'm beyond excited"—when the stick shift suddenly stalls. On this narrow road in Panama, destined (as the show's title might suggest) for the middle of nowhere, Kish is stuck. But only momentarily. Unflappable, she declares, “Well, if we didn't stall one time, we wouldn't be in a stick shift,” and the wheels are rolling again. Kish is very cool.

Over the course of four episodes, the Austin-based chef visits remote restaurant after remote restaurant—not once, she notes, is she able to take a direct flight, or even a single mode of transportation, to get to her next meal. She spends a week in each place—Panama, then Norway and Maine, before finishing the season aboard the floating Sem Pressa in Brazil's rainforest—learning from her hosts and serving meals alongside them. “The food is inevitable,” she says, “but it's the people that are really special.” Below, Kish takes us through each of the restaurants and gives us her best travel tips.

Chef Kristen Kish and Gisela Schmitt, co-owner and chef of the floating restaurant Sem Pressa, serve guests in Paraty, Brazil.

Autumn Sonnichsen/National Geographic for Disney

What pulled you towards making this highly adventurous food show?

There's so much to say here. Each episode is highly focused on the food and the people that make the food. But I think the beauty of what the show is—what I gravitate towards, what my expertise is, beyond the adventurous stuff and the cooking obviously—is a deeper human connection. I spent a lot of time with these people, off camera as well as on. And we're very, very fortunate that we were surrounded by good people in every location that we went to. You genuinely want to hang out with them and have conversations not just for the camera, which is really what I read heavily into, because with food it’s like—we'll get there. I don't need to push the food story, but what I do need to prompt and be good at is making sure I'm the vehicle for someone else to tell their story, and feel comfortable enough to do that. 

Can you tell me one thing you remember about each of your guests?

In the first episode, in the cloud forest in Panama, there was Rolando and Gabriella and their two kids, Isabella and Leonard at Hacienda Mamecillo. He built that house to move his family from the city and to raise his children in a different way, and he and his wife really created the space to live in it. It was never meant to be a restaurant, but Rolando is an adventurous type and he realized that it was too special of a place not to share it. He has loads of land out there—it’s not just his house and garden, there’s this waterfall and so much forest. What was this idea to raise his family in the middle of nowhere turned into an idea for sharing. He was not a trained chef—he’s a family guy—but they just started inviting people into their home.

Chef Carolynn Ladd makes Southern cuisine with a Maine twist at Turner Farm in North Haven.

Missy Bania/National Geographic for Disney

Kish and Schmitt aboard a smaller boat on a sourcing trip during their time together in Paraty

Missy Bania/National Geographic for Disney

And then I went all the way up to Norway to see Rogier (Jansen). Rogier is a restaurant chef who started in Amsterdam, working in restaurants that we’ve all heard of, and he was looking for his wild adventure. There’s something inside everybody, a reason why, and his was just that he wanted to prove to himself that he could do something extreme. So he went to the most extreme end of the earth—I mean, 78 degrees north is pretty much as close as we can get to the end of the world by commercial flight—to run the kitchen at Isfjord Radio Adventure Hotel. He just happens to be a really great trained chef.

From there, we went to Carolynn Ladd's Turner Farm in Maine, which was the closest place to home. It’s always nice to know that places like that exist, that you don't have to spend weeks at a time traveling to get somewhere, and that there are places in our backyards that we can visit that are worth seeing and that feel different. Carolynn comes from the South, from this place that she has great respect and love for. She chose to leave it behind and bring the food somewhere new, and to make something new in the process. That one was the most relatable to me—I moved from the East Coast to Austin to tell a different food story, too. For her, she needed a life shake-up as she had just gone through a breakup. She wasn’t running to escape something but to find something, and she found what she was looking for—the island. And she was able to move on. 

We ended up in Brazil at Sem Pressa with [Gisela Schmitt], who is one of the most well-rounded business people I've ever met. She runs multiple restaurants, in addition to this one on the boat. What I found most admirable about her is that she has relationships with all of her suppliers, and the people sourcing her food; she learns from them and educates them and the care is reciprocal. She is in direct contact in a way that is quite rare to find these days.

Turner Farm sits on a small island off the coast of Northern Maine.

Missy Bania/National Geographic for Disney

What was your most treacherous journey during the making of this show?

Wow, you know, going to the North Pole was a journey because of flight delays and things. With every place, we went through smaller airports that are on their own schedule. But none of them were that trying, and maybe it's because my expectations were already at a place where I knew things might be a little bit difficult. But each place took me on multiple fights and across water. I will say the car and bus rides from Sao Paulo to Paraty were the most uncomfortable. We traveled on mostly one-way roads that were so windy and bumpy, and I felt exhausted bouncing up and down for five hours. That was probably the most uncomfortable, but I can’t say that I wouldn’t do any of them again. I would do them even more so because I know what awaits me on the other side. 

Kish plating a sururu (mussels) dish aboard Sem Pressa

Autumn Sonnichsen/National Geographic for Disney

Isfjord Radio Adventure Hotel, and its restaurant, where Rogier Jansen presides, can be found on a remote coast in Svalbard, Norway.

Missy Bania/National Geographic for Disney_

What’s your advice for anyone preparing to set out on a wild adventure of their own?

I think that the best way to prepare for these things is to prepare a little bit less. I’m not the kind of traveler that has a full itinerary mapped out—obviously, when shooting for television there is more planning—but for my job in particular I approached every day asking, “What’s going to happen?” I don’t have a specific angle that I’m trying to hit; I want our contributors to guide us along the way and point us in the right direction. And this can apply to the personal side of traveling as well. Quite frankly, I don’t even make reservations anymore. If I get to the top restaurant in some city and it’s full, I say, “That’s okay, I can find something else.” And I do find that smaller, quieter place. As I’ve gotten older—and I don’t think I’m the only chef that will say this—but I’ve stopped traveling with my stomach. I have to eat, but I trust that I will always be able to find something, and going without that plan often gives you more of an opportunity to get a true look into a community and its culture. I worry less, and go in with the desire to build some form of relationship with somebody that knows more than I do.