Andrew Zimmern: Andrew Zimmern’s Genius Hack: How To Find A Fabulous Restaurant In Any City
By Suzanne Rowan Kelleher
Want a foolproof way of finding a great restaurant in any city? Celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern has a brilliant modern-day trick that anyone can steal.
First, resist the urge to turn to restaurant rating sites, says Zimmern. “There’s a difference between popular and good,” and establishments with the top ratings can leave discerning foodies disappointed.
“I don’t believe in a lot of the giant crowdsourcing apps, Yelp being the most famous one,” says Zimmern.
Instead, Zimmern advises seeking out recommendations from people who are actually in the know. In every city, there are professional foodies – local chefs, food writers, food editors – who know what is happening on the restaurant scene, from the hottest chefs and buzziest restaurant openings to the best hidden mom-and-pop gems in every neighborhood.
“I have my lists that I keep. I’m constantly talking to people who have been places, and I’m networking with other chefs, paying attention to food people that I love and maybe the chefs they mentor, and I see who is opening what. Staying on top of what’s new is, I think, an important thing in my business,” says Zimmern.
That’s easy to say for a James Beard Award winner with a bazillion connections throughout the restaurant industry, but what about an average Joe? Anyone can do this, insists Zimmern.
“When I travel somewhere, I will make a list of the food writers, food editors at local magazines and newspapers, and the chefs in that city. I will find them on social media and put them into a folder in my Twitter and Instagram apps. I’ll follow them on social media for three or four days, and then go back in and write down the places that all those people are eating.”
“It’s the easiest way to find great places to eat and I have a nickname for it,” says Zimmern. “I call it ‘crowdsourcing expertise.’”
The concept is simple: Instead of following the masses to mediocre tourist traps, follow knowledgeable foodies who intimately know that city’s culinary landscape. “Why wouldn’t I want to dine in Paris restaurants that are popular with Parisian food writers, Parisian chefs and Parisian food editors? It’s so easy to Google the food journalists at the big Parisian publications, follow them on social media and see what they’re eating. That way, you can figure out what’s hot in Paris right now.”
That doesn’t mean you’ll end up at Michelin-starred restaurants. “This is not about fancy dining. It’s about finding the group that likes to do what you like to do or need to do and aggregating that expertise,” says Zimmern.
Looking for eateries that are cheap and cheerful? There are food writers and editors in every city for every budget and style of dining. “Everyone has a different definition for what a good food experience is like for them,” says Zimmern. “So, what I encourage people to do is find the group that echoes your sentiments in terms of what you like, and just immerse yourself in that group on social media — whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or a combination — and see where those people are going.”
Zimmern says that crowdsourcing expertise is more reliable than asking for recommendations from your hotel concierge, cab driver or someone at the local tourist office. “Often, they have a horse in the race. They might have a favorite restaurant, or a friend that has a place, or a client that has a restaurant.”
To see if Zimmern’s strategy is really as easy as he makes it sound, I tried it for an upcoming getaway to Boston. It took me less than 10 minutes to track down:
- Chris Morris, Food Editor at The Boston Globe, on Twitter
- Jacqueline Cain, Deputy Food Editor at Boston Magazine, on Twitterand Instagram
- Rachel Leah Blumenthal, Editor at Eater Boston, on Twitterand Instagram
- Dana Hatic, Associate Editor at Eater Boston, on Twitter
What I found were social media feeds brimming with personal recommendations, photos and links to recent restaurant reviews and dining guides. In minutes, I was able to compile a shortlist of places to eat that look both fun and fabulous.
“It’s how I find the restaurants that go on my list of places to eat. It’s really kind of simple,” says Zimmern. “I’m surprised that more people don’t do it.”Read More