“If you really want an inside look at who the best chefs in America are, you have to ask the chefs themselves,” says Gabe Joseph, Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel for Best Chefs America. And that’s exactly what they did.

Best Chefs America is a 400-page comprehensive peer review guide of chefs in the United States, and it launches Thurs. Feb. 28. The Charleston-based Best Chefs team conducted more than 5000 one-on-one telephone interviews with chefs between March and December last year. The chefs were asked a series of questions rating other chefs in their area, like “if you could choose one chef to cook for you, your family, and friends, who would you choose?” To make it into the book, chefs needed the requisite number of mentions from chefs interviewed. The resulting book is the only peer review guide to chefs in the U.S.

The beginning pages of the book feature a foreword by renowned chef and writer Michael Rulhman. “Rulhman knows more than most about what it takes to be a great cook and what makes someone a best chef. His insightful foreword sets the stage for content of the book,” Joseph says. Ruhlman’s forward focuses on how important it is for chefs to be admired by their colleagues while being inspiring, optimistic, and generous with sincere praise.

Following the forward are profiles of the top 25 most influential chefs in the country, which includes Charleston’s Sean Brock of McCrady’s and Husk. Also included in the directory are 27 Charleston chefs including Jeremiah Bacon of Macintosh, Mike Lata of FIG, and Robert Stehling of Hominy Grill. “We identified certain culinary hotspots across U.S., and Charleston is clearly one of them,” Joseph says.

The book is broken down by state, and then further by metropolitan statistical area or city. Popular culinary cities include Napa, Calif., Providence, R.I., and Portland, Me. The design of the book is simple yet elegant, and features exquisite photos by Charleston photographer Andrew Cebulka. Best Chefs America highlights culinary trends and ingredients like radishes, rooftop gardens, and fermentation with full-page color photos.

The $75 book is available for purchase online or by phone, and since the launch coincides with the BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival, it will be available for purchase at the Heirloom Book Co. tent all weekend.

“This book is for anyone who wants to find out who the best chefs are and where to find the best food. Those two go hand in hand,” Joseph says. “We recognized the need for a peer review guide to chefs, which exists in other professions. So that is what we set out to do,” adds Joseph.

Joseph adds that there will be more to come for Best Chefs America, as they continue to update and highlight what’s going on in the culinary world with input from the chefs themselves. “We are giving chefs a forum to speak and shining the light on chefs that have been the backbone of one of the most important aspects of our lives: food,” he says.  

Best Chefs America will soon be revamping their website to include even more interactive features, but for now you can learn about the process, preview and purchase the book, and submit nominations for chefs to be interviewed. Preview the book and explore the website at bestchefsamerica.com/book.