Whether you know Geoffrey Zakarian from judging Food Network’s Chopped, as an iconic Iron Chef or hosting The Kitchen, he’s been a fixture in our homes — and inspiration in our kitchens — for decades. But despite being totally at home on a TV screen, his favorite place in the world is a bit more colorful: The Mediterranean.

The region served as inspiration for the Iron Chef from childhood.

“My mom was a great cook,” Zakarian shared with Yahoo Life. “So when I went to France in my early twenties — French-Mediterranean, south of France and Italy — all that food just resonated with me. It’s the taste I remember from my childhood.”

Mediterranean cuisine is more than just delicious, however — to Zakarian, it’s a way of life. The fitness-minded chef relies heavily on those ingredients for his own meals and to keep him in shape.

“Exercise is very important,” he noted. “But if you exercise and don’t eat right, it’s not going to matter. That’s why I love to cook with [Mediterranean] ingredients. I love to incorporate [them] into all my meals — almost all of them are Mediterranean in style.”

One of his go-to recipes? An easy summer pasta salad that’s perfect for entertaining. The Mediterranean-inspired dish is anything but basic and oh-so-delicious.

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