Nashville Chefs Represent in New Best Chefs America Book



On March 1, a new book is coming out that purports to be the first-ever industry peer review of the nation’s top kitchen talent. Previously, chef rankings have been the territory of organizations like the James Beard Society, customer surveys, restaurant critics and even (gasp) bloggers. With the inaugural edition of Best Chefs America, the rankings land in the hands of those who hold the spatulas, the chefs themselves.

Last year, the people behind the book conducted more than 5,000 confidential telephone interviews with chefs — who were nominated by other chefs, culinary professionals and food enthusiasts across the country. After aggregating the data, 4800 chefs earning the top scores among their peers in their region were included in the guide and were profiled along with their restaurants.

The coffee table book is almost 400 pages with a forward by esteemed food journalist Michael Rulhman. It's not cheap at $75, but if I remember those leather-bound Who's Who books they were always trying to foist on me in high school and college were pretty pricey too. This is certainly more interesting!

But the real measure of whether this is an exhaustive and accurate reflection of the cooking talent in America is which chefs were chosen. Since we obviously know more about our backyard than other parts of the country, I requested a sneak peek at who made the list from Middle Tennessee.

Here's the list:

Erik Anderson - The Catbird Seat
Jeremy Barlow - Tayst
Tyler Brown - The Capitol Grille
Yun Choo - Samurai Sushi
Josh Habiger - The Catbird Seat
Phillip Krajeck - Rolf and Daughters
Matthew Lackey - Flyte
David Maxwell - Miel Restaurant
Margot McCormack - Margot Café
Deb Paquette - Etch
Edgar Pendley - Urban Grub
Charles Phillips - 1808 Grille
Kevin Ramquist - F. Scott's Restaurant and Jazz Bar
Will Uhlhorn - Table 3
Bob Waggoner - Watermark
Jamie Watson - Café Fundamental
Tandy Wilson - City House
Robbie Wilson - M Street Entertainment Group

At first blush, I'd say that's a pretty solid list. Other than the fact that editorial deadlines obviously didn't allow for the fact that Barlow, Maxwell and Robbie Wilson are no longer working in those kitchens, it's a good representation of some of Nashville's best culinary talent. I find it especially telling that Phil Krajeck made the list despite only being open for a month before the survey ended, and that Bob Waggoner has earned the respect of his peers working in Nashville only half time. That lets you know how much other Nashville chefs appreciate those two very able chefs' reputations in other kitchens.

Certainly you could haggle about some of the inclusions and exclusions (and feel free to do exactly that in the comments), but this is a good jumping off point. You can even make your own nominations for future editions or purchase the book at the project's website.

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