Answering the question, 'Where do chefs eat?'

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Have you ever wondered where chefs eat when they aren’t in their own kitchen? From cheap to expensive, from breakfast to late night, from neighborhood joints to one-of-a-kind restaurants, Where Chefs Eat by Joe Warwick lists more than 2,500 places from 400 chefs around the world.

Lynne Rossetto Kasper: I'm looking at this book. It’s got to be about 3 to 4 inches thick, but it's not heavy, thank goodness. This is great -- 2,000 pictures from chefs everywhere, from Latvia to Cape Verde. The only place you didn't hit was Antarctica. How did you go about picking these people?

Joe Warwick
Joe Warwick (Photo: Courtesy Joe Warwick and Phaidon)

Joe Warwick: A lot of the chefs picked themselves -- guys like Rene Redzepi, Pierre Gagnaire, Ferran Adria, David Chang, Daniel Boulud -- these are very well-known, gastronomic chefs.

Beyond that, it was a case of being lucky enough. I worked on setting up a thing called The World's 50 Best Restaurants. Through that I'd get connections with a lot of different gastronomic journalists and restaurant journalists around the world. If there was somewhere I got stuck, I'd email them and go, "Look, who do you think I should speak to in Brazil?" They'd get back to me with some ideas, and we'd look at them and send them off. It was a research job, some of it. I think we probably ended up sending out surveys to maybe one-and-a-half times as many as we got back. When we started doing this, we were talking about doing 100 chefs and 500 restaurants, which was something I could get my head around.

LRK: And now to 2,500 recommendations.

JW: It kind of snowballed.

LRK: It's really intriguing. I look at this and you think of these places that you never think of -- Newfoundland, for instance.

JW: We didn't sit down and say we're going to have so many chefs from certain parts of the world. Obviously, there are big restaurant cities like Paris, Barcelona and New York and those sort of places we wanted to represent. I thought about places like Canada and also places like New Zealand that tend to get neglected in other restaurant guides. It was really interesting because the chefs are -- I think, maybe because those areas get neglected -- doing great things and they really engaged with it. So, what we got back from a particular country was partly due to how the chefs responded to it.

LRK: I was looking at Newfoundland because it's not terribly far away. It's so great to see how in this book, places that do get overlooked are not only spotlit, but we also get some details. I think it's the chef Jeremy Charles who had a bunch of recommendations for St. John’s and other areas that just sounded fascinating.

Who surprised you the most with their picks?

JW: I don't know if chefs surprise me. We didn't just say to chefs, "Pick your favorite places." Because what does that mean? We asked them to pick places for specific things from breakfast to late night, from cheap to expensive, from somewhere you couldn't find anywhere else in the world to the regular neighborhood joints.

The places that really connected with me as I was going through it and compiling it were not just restaurants. There were hot dog stands. There was a herring wagon in Stockholm. There's a thing called a wet burger in Istanbul that I didn't know anything about, which seems to be a burger in a sealed bun. It's a wet burger and they steam it in this incredibly pungent chili garlic sauce; it sounds absolutely fantastic and very messy. So those kind of places. As you go to Hong Kong, there's a place called Under Bridge Spicy Crab where the specialty is crabs. Those sort of street food places were really good.

If you think about very high-end chefs who are cooking very complicated food, the assumption is maybe that's how they eat when they go out. I think they do eat in those places to see what their peers are doing and to keep up with the competition. But actually, when they go out and relax and eat, they're into something a lot more casual and something a lot more real and direct. Those are the places that I thought were really interesting. The late night places as well because, of course, chefs still work very long hours. If you want to know how to eat late at night well anywhere -- ask a chef.

LRK: I think the places you're talking about are the places the locals go and most travelers never learn about. Now with the Web it's great because we've got a lot more access, but still it's really great to have someone who really knows food be able to say to you, "This is the one you want to try."

JW: Exactly. Also, the thing with guides that are compiled from surveys is you're asking yourself who's filling in these surveys? We don't know; they're anonymous. And with stuff generated online as well -- people review restaurants anonymously. People go back to professional critics for trusted voices, but if you've got a chef putting their name on a place, they're putting their reputation on the line almost as much as they are when they cook for you. If they send you somewhere that's not up to spec, they're going to look bad.

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