If you've followed the Snapchat adventures of DJ Khaled, then you're acquainted with his "keys" to life. The philosophical gems—doled out on social media, hot-wings challenges, and surreal TV appearances—are generally as inspiring as they are inscrutable. "No. 1 key is God, that's the master key," he told the New York Times this week. "Another key is 'never give up.' Another key is 'never surrender.' Another key is 'give thanks to life at all times.'"

All sound advice, to be sure. But where Khaled's philosophy falters is in its culinary applications. He may know his way around a red-velvet cake, but any man who tells you that egg whites are a "major key" is simply not to be trusted. To unlock the real secrets of dining, we must turn instead to the true experts—the ones who know how to score a life-changing bowl of Malaysian soup at 4am, or side-step the crowds inside a tourist-thronged institution. 

In NYC, these insider tips and tricks can mean the difference between waiting in a two-hour brunch line, and eating the city's best sturgeon in the comfort of your underpants. They can ensure that you get the freshest slice at a pizzeria, and teach you how to summon incredible jerk chicken or lard bread out of thin air in Brooklyn. All you need is a jangling set of major food keys to eat like a pro.

To help crack the code, we begged some of the city's savviest food writers and chefs to part with their best-kept dining  power moves so that you may navigate the New York food scene with all of the swagger and panache of DJ Khaled navigating the high seas on his jet ski. We thank them for it, and you should too.

  • Regan Hofmann, food writer, contributor at PUNCH (@regan_hofmann)
  • Gabriella Gershenson, features editor at Rachael Ray Magazine (@gabiwrites)
  • Dan Saltzstein, editor at The New York Times Travel Section (@dansaltzstein)
  • Justin Bolois, features editor at First We Feast (@justinbolois)
  • Alex Vadukul, writes about the city for The New York Times and is the U.S. editor of Port Magazine. He is also the food columnist for Opening Ceremony. (@alexvadukul)
  • Chris Schonberger, co-founder and editor-in-chief at First We Feast (@cschonberger)
  • Scott Wiener, founder of Scott's Pizza Tours, author of Viva La Pizza! The Art of the Pizza Box (@scottspizzatour)
  • Jesse Hirsch, editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan magazines (@jesse_hirsch)
  • Matt Gross, writes about food, travel, and related subjects for many publications (@worldmattworld)
  • Adam Kuban, proprietor of Margot’s Pizza pop-up. You may also know him as the founder of the now-defunct pizza blog Slice, or as one of FWF’s "20 Greatest Food Bloggers of All Time" (@adamkuban)
  • Kenji López-Alt, managing Culinary Director at Serious Eats, creator of The Food Lab (@thefoodlab)
  • Brad Garoon, founder of Burger Weekly (@burgerweekly
  • Chris Jaeckle, chef at all'onda in NYC (@cjaeckle)
  • Joe DiStefano, O.G. Queens food writer, culinary tour guide, founder of Chopsticks + Marrow (@joedistefano)
  • Daniel Gritzer, culinary director at Serious Eats, former professional cook (@dgritzer)
  • Corey Cova, chef at Lord Hamm's and New Leaf in NYC (@coreycova)
  • Ben Shapiro, director of content development at Complex (@b_shap)

In the words of Pusha T, "keys open doors." Here's your new set: