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When the world's chefs get hungry...

New guide offers recommendations of more than 2,000 restaurants from hundreds of professional cooks

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TORONTO -- More than 400 of the world's top chefs are spilling the beans on their favourite places to nosh.

The personal recommendations have been compiled into Where Chefs Eat: A Guide to Chefs' Favourite Restaurants (Phaidon Press), edited by London-based restaurant critic Joe Warwick.

The more than 2,000 eateries run the gamut from breakfast joints and neighbourhood favourites to high-end restaurants where money is no object.

Then there are places that professional admiration has drawn chefs to say "wish I'd opened" or others they describe as "worth the travel," whether it's across the country or on the other side of the world.

Nearly 75 Canadian restaurants are featured, from Victoria, Vancouver, Kelowna, Shirley and Sooke in British Columbia to Toronto, Singhampton, Ottawa and Montreal in central Canada to St. John's, Portugal Cove and Bonavista in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Chefs who recommended Canadian places include Michael Steh, Claudio Aprile, Paul Newman, Marc Fosh, Eloi Dion, Marc-Andre Jette, Armand Arnal, Vikram Vij and Jeremy Charles.

Some entries include extra tidbits about the decor, favourite dishes or history of the establishment while others rated kudos from more than one chef.

Noma, Rene Redzepi's Copenhagen restaurant, along with Mugaritz in Errenteria, Spain, were the most mentioned by chefs in the "wish I'd opened" category.

"But actually more often some of the cooks in the very fancy restaurants doing very complicated food actually want something quite laid back," Warwick said in a recent interview.

"They eat at those other places for homework."

Warwick, 41, co-founder in 2002 of the World's 50 Best Restaurant Awards at Restaurant magazine, said diners can look up plenty of reviews on websites like TripAdvisor, "but who's writing these reviews?"

Chefs, on the other hand, are known for their cooking or their restaurant, and their reputation is on the line if they send someone to a bad place, "so there's a kind of trusted voice there."

"Do all chefs have great taste in restaurants? Probably not... chefs are people, too. I think they're kind of tapped into their local restaurant scenes because they know who's opening what."

He didn't want the new book to be a list of the world's best restaurants because "it's always subjective and not always fair and a little bit arbitrary sometimes."

Instead, the huge data-collecting project was intended as a stepping-off point for people who are visiting a place for business or pleasure.

"If you're in Toronto and don't know anything about the restaurant scene, you want somewhere to go for breakfast, here's some places. It's a starting point. It's not everywhere I need to go in Toronto, but here are some reliable choices."

Warwick acknowledged travellers might not want to lug the 714-page hardcover tome with them when they're sightseeing, so an app will allow people to search by country and category. The app is also easy to update if a place closes or relocates. (Go to wherechefseat.com or follow @wherechefseat on Twitter.)

"The book's lovely, but it's not the most portable of things," Warwick said. "It's like a Concise Oxford Dictionary, isn't it? It's for flipping through in your library."

He said plans are in the works to do another edition in 2015.

Warwick has moved on from Restaurant magazine and now writes about half a dozen reviews per month for such publications as the Guardian newspaper, the London newspaper Metro, London Magazine and the Metropolitan, a monthly magazine available on the Eurostar train system.

While many would think it sounds glamorous to be paid to sample menus in restaurants three to five times a week, he said it can sometimes be tough subtly snapping shots of food without using a flash and taking notes on his smartphone.

"People think you want to go out and find a bad restaurant and give it a kicking because it'd be fun, but you don't," he said. "That's an evening of your life you're never going to get back. And actually I think sometimes that anger you get in reviews is because people resent they've lost that time, not that they've gone to look for it.

"So yeah, it is hard work sometimes, but it's a great job. In terms of industries, you know, the restaurant industry is pretty inclusive. Most of the people who work there are really nice and in comparison to fashion, which is more bitchy and cutthroat people are nice.

"It's the hospitality industry. People are hospitable."

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 16, 2013 C5

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