Celebrity chef Jason Santos is so busy running his five Boston-area restaurants — plus appearing on Fox TV’s “Hell’s Kitchen” and Paramount Network’s “Bar Rescue,” as well as stints as a guest chef on other shows, including NBC’s “Today” and “The Talk” on CBS — that he doesn’t have much time for travel. But when he does, it’s Thailand that beckons the 45-year-old blue-haired chef. “It literally will change your life,” he said of the Southeast Asian country in a recent phone call from Los Angeles, where he was filming seasons 21 and 22 of “Hell’s Kitchen,” on which he is one of Gordon Ramsey’s sous chefs. Santos said season 21 should air in the late summer/early fall, “but with COVID, the TV schedule has been a little off.” Season 9 of “Bar Rescue” will air in February, he added. Santos said he is especially excited about his newest eatery, Nash Bar, which opened earlier this month in the space that housed his former restaurant Abby Lane. “It’s super cool, with an open kitchen and a griddle behind the bar so the bartenders can make late-night grilled cheeses,” he said. “There’s also live music and eventually we’re going to have a roof deck.” His other restaurants are Buttermilk & Bourbon in Boston and in Watertown, Citrus & Salt in Boston, and B&B Fish in Marblehead. We caught up with the Melrose native, who lives in Woburn with his wife, Thuy, and their two Shiba Inu pups, Miso and Kobe, to talk about all things travel.
Favorite vacation destination? Thailand. I went there nine years ago and liked it so much that my wife and I went there on our honeymoon three years ago. The people are so incredibly sweet, nice, and genuine, the landscape is absolutely stunning, and the food is on a different level. I can’t get enough. It literally will change your life. I try not to visit to the same place twice, but this is the exception. Vietnam is a close second.
Favorite food or drink while vacationing? Don’t judge me, but there is something about being on a tropical beach and drinking really sweet crappy frozen drinks that just gets me every time.
Where would you like to travel to but haven’t? Barcelona. There is something about the passion for food there that I find mesmerizing and would like to explore firsthand. Also, I want to eat tapas until I can’t eat tapas no more.
One item you can’t leave home without when traveling? My wife.
Aisle or window? I weirdly am particular with this. If it’s a shorter flight I like the aisle — I think in my head that I can get off the plane quicker — and if it’s a long trip I like to have a wall to lean up against.
Favorite childhood travel memory? My parents and grandparents would book a summer lake home every single year in either Maine or New Hampshire. My mom still does it to this day. As a child, I felt like we were driving across the world. My family would pack up the car super early on a Saturday morning with groceries and we would head out.
Guilty pleasure when traveling? I love a good plane Bloody Mary. I generally don’t drink a lot or drink on a plane at all, but for some reason when I am going on a legit vacation, I like to kick it off with a Bloody Mary with a packet of lime.
Best travel tip? Get yourself a travel credit card. It will change the way you travel — from waiting for your flight in a great lounge or an upgrade at a hotel. Want my referral link for a platinum Amex? Just kidding … sort of.