I wanted to eat pigeon. But since tourists, apparently, don’t think of pigeon as a suitable meal, I was stuck in my riad listening to the call to prayer and looking for restaurant recommendations on the Internet.
Even in this scenario, a print copy of Where Chefs Eat: A Guide to Chefs’ Favourite Restaurants would have been no good. With 714 pages and weighing in at 635 grams, a copy is hardly the best travel companion. But the app version of the book (currently available for iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch) is another story.
The home-screen of the Where Chefs Eat app is a collage of selection options: where, chefs, eat (a selection of the restaurants), and tipped for (with options like breakfast, bargain, and wish I’d opened). Each provides a specific way to dive into the information held within.
Navigating by location (the “where” section of the home-screen or via the map – the world icon at the bottom of the screen) is the simplest of options. As you drill down through continent, country, and eventually city, you see the restaurants that meet your criteria appear. Selecting any of the restaurants from the list brings up a new screen. Filled with essential details such as the name, address, phone number, and website of the restaurant; you are also provided with less regular information such as the reservation policy, whether credit cards are accepted, and if you are expected to dress in a particular way.
From the restaurant screen you are able to search further by seeing what else the recommending chef has recommended and what other restaurants are available in the area. Or you can save the restaurant to your favourites, ready to pull up later when you are hungry.
Back at the home-screen you can explore the restaurants via the chefs themselves or, if travel is no issue, via the restaurants themselves. But for most travellers, the tipped for search function and the where function are going to be the most useful.
The chef descriptions that accompany most of the chef cards, are a real plus to the guide – many times I found a new restaurant suggestion via the descriptions alone. The navigation options of the app make searching for a restaurant straightforward and easy, and the recommendations themselves are, of course, a real pro.
It isn’t all ice cream sundaes, however. While the app is easy to use, at first glance the learning curve is a little disorientating, and heaven forbid you find a chef or restaurant on the home-screen when you are first exploring that you want to find later. The chefs and restaurants on the home-screen are always a random selection, and to this day I am still looking for one of the chefs I accidentally ” found” when I first started exploring. There are also a few extra taps here and there that could be eliminated without affecting functionality.
The key downside, however, is in relation to app updates. When asked, Phaidon Press confirmed that they do plan to make updates to the existing content within the app – e.g. if a restaurant’s opening hours changed – but that they wouldn’t be adding new entries to the current content. These would come later in the form of a new edition/new year of the guide. From a publishing standpoint this makes sense but from an app perspective, where regular updates are more of the norm, this is more disappointing.
Whether you agree or disagree with Phaidon’s decision, sometimes there isn’t time to pre-plan every meal of a trip. Sometimes you decide to wing it. Many times that will work, but sometimes it doesn’t. And it is these semi-unplanned moments, when a guide like Where Chefs Eat really comes into its element – provided its content and your current location have some overlap.
Title: Where Chefs Eat: A Guide to Chefs’ Favourite Restaurants
Written By: Joe Warwick
App Version: App Store