The Man Who Decides The ‘Best Restaurant’ In America
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It is that time of year again; a time when restaurants around the country give each other congratulatory pats on the back for making the list of Bon Appetit’s ‘Hot Ten’ Best New Restaurants. And round of applause for our local favorite AL’s Place for taking the number one spot, ‘Best New Restaurant in America.’ This is one of the highest accolades in the restaurant world and congratulations goes out to Chef Aaron London for making it happen. It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving, hard working Chef that has risen through the ranks to now firmly cement his place in culinary history. His restaurant has gone from a casual, neighborhood spot to the hottest place in America, literary, overnight. How does this happen? Who deems a place worthy to make the list, or even a visit in the first place? Is it just great food? Atmosphere? Service? How does it all work you ask?
Knowlton is the restaurant and drinks editor at Bon Appetit. You may know him from his appearances on The Iron Chef and NBC’s the Chopping Block. However, these days he travels around the country writing about food and getting paid for it. He is the man who single-handily eats at hundreds of new restaurants every year and decides which one of these is the big number one. To put it in more local terms, he is the Michael Bauer of America. How does he decide? Unfortunately, he was not available to comment, so we can’t get hard and fast criteria of what makes, ‘best new restaurant.’ So my question is this,
Why is it that we put so much trust in one man?
Is it because he is the voice of the trendiest, most on point, up-to-date food magazines in the country? Is it because his palette is far superior to ours? Is it because he was a freakin’ judge on Iron Chef? Putting your trust in a Food Guide is no new phenomenon, the oldest and arguably the most prestigious has been in place for over a hundred years. The Michelin Guide. The Michelin Guide is the most sacred, renowned guide when it comes to food. It gives the best restaurants in Europe, America and Japan a rating of stars, ranging from one, “A very good restaurant in its category” to three “Exceptional cuisine, worth a special trip.” It is widely recognized as one of the most rigorous guides in the world with an emphasis on fine dining and French establishments. The Guide is written after anonymous ‘inspectors’ write reports on a restaurant over several visits, these reports are taken back to a board, which is then reviewed and the list is then formulated and categorized into the aforementioned rating system. I’m sure Knowlton has a formula too, however it is the formula of one man, one man that everyone in the restaurant world knows. You can bet your bottom dollar that when he walks into a new restaurant he gets the tres soigné treatment.
Whether it’s Bauer or Knowlton, we love to know where the next hot thing will be. A glowing review by these guys can secure a restaurant’s fiscal success for the interminable future. They provide the average punter a decisive list of ‘what’s good’ and what’s not. Sometimes great food flies under the radar, and without a solid review they fall into obscurity and out of business. Thanks to Knowlton you’re looking at a three month wait list to get into AL’s. Don’t worry about me I’ll be round the corner at my bangin’ five dollar pupusa shop no one’s ever heard of…