Over four hundred chefs have given restaurant recommendations in Where Chefs Eat, “the ultimate insiders’ guide”. Thanks to better working hours and cheaper travel, dining out in the cities where they work in or locales around the world is part of what it means to be a chef today; gone are days subsisting exclusively on family meals—or cigarettes, coffee, and amphetamines.
Chefs recommended restaurants in eight categories (breakfast, late night, regular neighbourhood, local favorite, bargain, high end, wish I’d opened, and worth the travel). The book is organized by continent and divided by city, but restaurants are listed in no particular order. Details include who recommended the restaurant and why and the restaurant’s hours, price range, and cuisine.
The book is heavily weighted towards Europe, but include reviews in Oceania, Africa, and North and South America. In New York, the restaurants with the most recommendations include Per Se (Worth the Travel, 17), Daniel (High End, 12), Balthazar (Breakfast, 12), Blue Ribbon Brasserie (Late Night, 11), and Le Bernardin (Wish I’d Opened, 9).
Later this month, the iPhone/iPad app will be released—a huge benefit for hungry tourists and locals alike—and in the future, expect regularly updated guides. Recently I had the opportunity to ask the book’s editor, Joe Warwick, more about the book. The condensed and edited interview follows.
Louise McCready Hart: Why did you decide to put this guide together?
Joe Warwick: As a journalist, I’ve been lucky enough to interview some of the world’s greatest chefs, and I always asked them for restaurant recommendations—both on their own turf and abroad. El Bulli had a list of restaurants that they gave to friends and customers that came to see them and were heading back into Barcelona, and it occurred to me that every great restaurant probably had a list like that. I previously worked on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, and I liked the idea of doing an international guide that wasn’t a just list of gastronomic temples, the sort of places that everyone knows about and have horribly long waiting lists.
LMH: How did you go about compiling the recommendations?
JW: We sent out surveys asking chefs to pick places for specific purposes. When we first talked about doing this we were aiming for 100 chefs and 500 restaurants around the world; what we ended up with was over 400 chefs and more than 2300 recommendations. Left to my own devices, I would probably still be working on it.
LMH: Did you uncover any dining observations through this process?
JW: Never assume that because a chef serves complicated food, he is interested in eating like that when going out. Show me a chef that serves elaborate tasting menus in an opulent dining room and I’ll show you a chef that likes to relax with something simple somewhere informal.
LMH: Are there any aspects about the way chefs eat that is different from the average restaurant guest?
JW: if anyone knows where to eat well late at night, it’s a chef. I used to work in restaurants and when you finish a dinner service, even if you’re exhausted, you’re usually pumped up and full of adrenaline and need somewhere to unwind and relax. Every big city has hospitality hangouts and they’re invariably fun and affordable places.
LMH: Were there any surprises with regards to restaurants or specific items recommended?
JW: The places that stuck in my mind were the quirkier places that you couldn’t have found anywhere else: a herring wagon in Stockholm, a smorrebrod specialist in Copenhagen, (probably) the best jamon sandwich in Barcelona, and something called a “wet burger” in Istanbul that sounds really messy and I want to try.
LMH: What restaurant had the most recommendations?
JW: Noma, which was recommended by chefs for “Wish I’d opened”.
LMH: Where does this fit in today’s world of Zagat, Michelin, Yelp, and other food guides?
JW: All restaurant recommendations are subjective, and with a lot of guides, whether they are online or in print and whether they are produced by surveys, secret inspections or anonymous diner reviews, you’re asking yourself “Who are these people?” and “Who has recommended this place?” Every recommendation here has at least one chef’s name attached to it, and if a chef puts their name to a restaurant they’re putting their reputation on the line. Finally, this is aiming to be a book and app for anyone that loves eating and travelling. We’ve tried to cover as much of the world as possible. With this you can turn up in any famous restaurant city (and a good number of obscure ones and places in between) and have a starting point for exploring the restaurant scene. You’re getting a taste of the whole world, with reliable recommendations, for close to the same price of other single city guides.