Forbes (née Mobil), Michelin, Pellegrino and Beard are four very important names to drop by a restaurant and chef. And while assorted restaurant and chef top ten lists, accolades and awards may be as ubiquitous as bacon, Best Chefs America, a brand new $75, 386-page coffee table book with foreward written by respected food author Michael Ruhlman hopes to stand out from the rest by being the first industry peer review of the country’s best kitchen talent. We were skeptical too, but, according to the book’s masterminds Ben Biddle and Gabe Joseph, it’s totally kosher–and scientific, too.
The ambitious undertaking took place from March to December 2012 when analysts conducted over 5,000 confidential phone interviews with chefs nominated by other chefs, industry professionals and insiders. The interviews consisted of questions such as ‘which chef would you hire to cook for your family?’ among others. To tally the votes, a fancy software system was used to “aggregate the data.” The bottom line, however, is that if a chef wasn’t nominated by a fellow chef of food pro several times, they didn’t make the cut. When you see the South Florida list below, you’ll see a lot of chefs did make the cut, some you’ve probably never heard of. And that was the point, say Joseph, a lawyer, and Biddle, a former Virgin Islands school headmaster, both self professed culinary enthusiasts who had a burning desire to ask a zillion chefs whom in their own cities they most admired.
While Best Chefs America doesn’t rank the chefs, it lists them geographically and alphabetically along with “photography showcasing emerging trends and ingredients.” Chefs not listed with restaurants are either completely independent or unaffiliated with the restaurant they were with when the interview was conducted. Those listed with restaurants that just opened or have yet to open had a choice of listing which restaurant they’d like to be affiliated with.