Joe Warwick knows a thing or two about good restaurants. The hospitality veteran and former critic was part of the team that kicked off the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list for Restaurant Magazine. But with his latest book, Warwick has left the picking and choosing to other industry experts: the chefs he critiques. In just a few days, his new and updated edition of Where Chefs Eat: A Guide to Chefs’ Favorite Restaurants will hit store shelves, offering suggestions from the world’s top toques on where to dine across the globe.
The author has one of the most sought-after jobs in the world, but he didn’t set out with a goal of becoming a critic. Before heading to university in London, he took a job waiting tables in Virginia. “And I did an English and Drama degree, which seemed to qualify me for nothing but waiting tables,” he says. “So I ended up in the restaurant industry for about a decade.”
Looking for a change, Warwick enrolled in a journalism course. Not really sure what to write about, he was told by one of his instructors to cover what he knew. Restaurants seemed like a good start; he was offered a gig at a trade publication called Eat Soup. Before he knew it, he was writing for the Times, Arena, and eventually Restaurant Magazine, where he was part of the troupe that devised the inaugural “World’s 50 Best Restaurants” rundown.
When 50 Best was launched, neither Warwick nor the rest of the team had any idea it would turn into the admired list it has become. Over time, it morphed and took on a life of its own. “It’s gone on to be this huge kind of monstrous thing that I can’t believe, and that was all about picking these places that were fantastic restaurants, but pretty much fine dining, mostly,” says Warwick. “That wasn’t what it was meant to be, but that’s what it ended up being.”
Where the Chefs Eat is meant to be the opposite. Unlike the esteemed list, Warwick’s latest work (his first volume of the book was released in 2013) focuses on breaking down the selections into different categories, such as breakfast spots, late-night haunts, neighborhood eateries, local favorites, bargain meals, high-end destinations, and the places the chefs wished they’d opened themselves. “People say, ’50 Best, what do you think are the best restaurants?’ My response is always kind of ‘Best for what?’ ” says Warwick. “You don’t always want fine dining. Sometimes you want something different or you go out for a specific reason.”
For the 2015 edition, 630 leading international chefs were surveyed, resulting in recommendations spread throughout 70 different countries, with an overall total of 3,250 meals spread across the restaurant spectrum. From Angola, Tanzania, and South Africa to London, Tokyo, and New York, it features choices for every occasion and every budget, chosen by globally respected chefs like Ferran Adrià, José Andrés, and René Redzepi as well as New York’s most highly regarded, such as April Bloomfield, Marcus Samuelsson, David Chang, and Daniel Boulud.
Want to know where Andrew Carmellini goes for cheap eats? That would be Ippudo or Motorino. What about Harold Dieterle’s favorite breakfast spot? It’s Chelsea Bagel & Cafe. The concept former Aquavit chef Marcus Jernmark wishes he’d opened: Brooklyn Fare. Where are you most likely to find Christina Tosi in the wee hours of the morning? The Brooklyn Star, Crif Dogs, or the Meatball Shop.
For Warwick, a confluence of circumstances led to the project’s genesis: slight frustration with including only ambitious restaurants as the world’s best; a previous book (Warwick also produced A Hedonist’s Guide to Eat London, which included dining suggestions from a network of 100 chefs, sommeliers, restaurant critics, and other food-lovers); and a trip to one of the top eateries on the planet, the now-defunct El Bulli.
While there, he was given a list of other places to eat in Barcelona. Then it hit him. “It was one of these places you went on the pilgrimage — you know, you planned your trip around going to this place, like people do at the French Laundry and all those fantastic restaurants,” says Warwick. “El Bulli had this list that was two sheets with places in Barcelona that they’d recommend to their guests. And I remember thinking at the time, I wonder if all these other great restaurants have a similar kind of list. And it turns out that they do.”
Warwick pitched the idea of a professionally crowd-sourced book to Phaidon, and the company bit. To make it work, he reached out to the best-known chefs in each city, then researched the regional toques in areas with which he was not as familiar. And while Warwick admits he didn’t get to include every chef he wanted to ask, he did get a solid start.
For the second release, Warwick has expanded the concept: It’s been increased by a third (the newest edition has 3,000 picks), it includes more food-towns outside of the major cities (think Charleston, Austin, and Portland), and it has a new-and-improved geolocated app.
The app is available for purchase through iTunes now. The book will be released on February 7.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.