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‘Where Chefs Eat’ North American editor gives insights into latest guide

Russ & Daughters Cafe is the most popular spot for breakfast.

Food writer Joshua David Stein is the first

Food writer Joshua David Stein is the first North American editor for the restaurant guide, "Where Chefs Eat." Photo Credit: Phaidon / Lauren Margit Jones

“Where Chefs Eat” is back and bigger than ever.

The restaurant guidebook shares notable chefs’ favorite spots for cheap eats, breakfast, splurges and more.

In the latest edition ($35, Phaidon), released this month, that means more than 4,500 restaurant recommendations in 70-plus countries from more than 650 chefs.

Clocking in at 1,184 pages, the third edition in five years is 200 more pages than its predecessor. There are also more editors; joining the originator of “Where Chefs Eat,” London-based food writer Joe Warwick, are editors in the United States, Asia and Australia.

Overseeing North America — and by proxy New York City — was Windsor Terrace-based food writer Joshua David Stein.

amNewYork spoke with Stein, 36, the former restaurant critic for the New York Observer, about the book.

What appealed to you about taking this on?

There’s so much wonderful food happening that this was an opportunity to get a sense of it. The chefs — they care, and they’re very generous. They know these vibrant communities. There are two things about getting recommendations from the chefs — one, they know what good food is. Two, they have so little time off, if they’re going to eat at a place, you know it’s good.

What was your criteria for reaching out to chefs to participate?

I wanted the restaurants to be relevant and talked about, and to some degree the chef to be creative . . . to really have a viewpoint. And also within that I think it was important for me to look for diversity among the chefs, too. I didn’t want it to just be a guide of 7,043 recommendations by white dudes.

Was there anything that surprised you as you worked on it?

It didn’t surprise me, but Russ & Daughters Café for a number of reasons — one of which is New York is very well-represented — has the highest number of votes for breakfast. I thought that was interesting. Also how many cheap eats were recommended in New York. New York really does have this reputation for every expensive food for a lot of reasons, but there’s also wonderful, wonderful cheaper options.

With the nature of the restaurant business being what it is — new places opening and closing almost daily — how much did that factor into this guide? What value does it offer for readers?

I would say there are 4,528 restaurants from around the world in it — statistically I think most of them are going to stay open. At least until the fourth edition. That is true — places open, places close. Chefs fall from grace and new chefs emerge. Because the sample size is so large, I think that the book is very useful for anyone who loves food.

As North American editor, did you get to do any traveling?

There wasn’t that much traveling. Danny Bowien didn’t want to fill out the [recommendation form], so I went and had lunch with him and did it in person, which was more fun. I met him at Mission [Chinese Food].

Do you have places that you want to visit now in New York City?

More like cities. Minneapolis and Memphis and Pittsburgh. And Detroit and Indianapolis. Philadelphia. The food scenes are just so exciting. I’m a freelancer — there are all of these stories that I should pitch that are amazing.

The book is pretty daunting — what’s the best way to approach it to get the most out of it?

It kind of depends on what you wanted it for. Obviously there’s the straightforward way of if you are looking for a fancy restaurant, go and find a chef who you admire and follow their recommendations. There’s something very appealing about following one person’s vision. And you can just go by city and read through. What I like doing is going to areas that I didn’t work on, in Asia and Europe, and just reading through. Because even just the reading through is a culinary journey.

Editor-approved

To find out where chefs eat, Stein asked hundreds of contributors recommendations for eight categories. We asked the food writer to fill it out too:

  • Bargain: Kai Feng Fu Dumpling House (4801 Eighth Ave., Borough Park)
  • Breakfast: High Street on Hudson (637 Hudson St.)
  • High end: Le Bernardin (155 W. 51st St.)
  • Late night: Txikito (240 Ninth Ave.)
  • Local favorite: MeMe’s Diner (657 Washington Ave., Prospect Heights)
  • Regular neighborhood: Brooklyn Commune (601 Greenwood Ave., Windsor Terrace)
  • Wish I’d opened: I wish Lupolo, George Mendes’ place, was STILL open (along with many restaurants who left us too soon)
  • Worth the travel: SingleThread Farm (Healdsburg, California)

IF YOU GO

Joshua David Stein will moderate a conversation with chefs Alex Raij, Andrew Carmellini, Floyd Cardoz and JJ Johnson, followed by a signing for “Where Chefs Eat,” at Rizzoli Bookstore on April 9 from 6-8 p.m. | 1133 Broadway, 212-759-2424, rizzolibookstore.com

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