The logic would seem infallible: Your favorite chefs produce your favorite foods, so of course you would trust their palates to steer you to other dishes in the area.
Such is the premise of Chefs Feed, a smartphone app that allows chefs to serve as your concierge on where to eat in a number of cities across the country. The app debuted last fall in a small handful of markets, but has now expanded to include the D.C. area.
At present about 25 local chefs are featured in the D.C. portion of the app, including Scott Drewno of The Source, Nicholas Stefanelli of Bibiana, Michel Richard of Citronelle and Central, Mike Isabella of Graffiato and Bandolero, Jamie Leeds of Hank’s Oyster Bar, Eric Ziebold of CityZen and Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve.
Their recommendations, I would suggest, are a reflection of the city where they do business: They’re largely political.
Generally speaking, their dining politics fall into three overarching categories: Chefs who recommend dishes from sister restaurants in their own company. (Example: Anthony Chittum singles out plates from Columbia Firehouse and Birch & Barley, two operations under the same Neighborhood Restaurant Group umbrella as Chittum’s Vermilion.)
Then there are chefs who recommend dishes at their friends’ restaurants. (Example: R.J. Cooper votes for plates at Brasserie Beck and Bayou Bakery, operated by his buds Robert Wiedmaier and David Guas respectively; Cooper is far from alone in this particular category.) Finally, there are chefs who favor dishes that have a connection to their own spouse. (Examples: One of Guas’s recommendations is a restaurant, Brasserie Beck, for whom his wife does public relations (*); husband-and-wife team, Kyle Bailey of Birch & Barley and Tiffany MacIsaac of Buzz Bakery, pick dishes from each other’s repertoire.)
All of this gastronomic back-scratching makes you grateful for chefs like Jeff Tunks (DC Coast, Acadiana and other restaurants) who wanders far afield for his picks. Tunks selects dishes from such deep-space outposts as Mark’s Duck House in Falls Church, Pho Today in Fairfax and Taqueria la Placita in Hyattsville. Tunks’s off-the-beaten-path recommendations underscore a basic truth about chefs: Many simply do not have time to scavenge the area for good eats. They already work, like, 200 hours a week.
But chefs do know where to score late-night bites, like New Big Wong in Chinatown (open until 5 a.m. on weekends), Honey Pig Gooldaegee Korean Grill in Annandale (open 24 hours) and Amsterdam Falafelshop (open until, well, you know already). Each place pops up at least twice on the local Chefs Feed pages.
It’s hard to argue that there is no value to this app. First of all, the thing is free; your only cost is the time spent browsing it (which, frankly, won’t be long). Second, even with all the plate-driven patronage on display, I still enjoyed combing through the profiles to see who picked what — and why. The why is expressed in small chef-driven reviews of their favorite dishes, such as Spike Mendelsohn’s description of the agnolotti at Graffiato:
“It tastes like biting into little pillows of gold.”
I’m still trying to parse that simile.
In the meantime, here are a few profile pages from the Chefs Feed app:
* Note: David Guas’s wife, publicist Simone Rathle, e-mailed to say that at the time that Chefs Feed asked for Guas’s recommedations, she was not doing work for Robert Wiedmaier.
Fabio Trabocchi of Fiola: