Puzzled by Freehold Restaurant Cook with a Best Chef Award?

by Ellen

I recently had a discussion with a friend of mine who had heard that La Cipolina Restaurant in Freehold has a new chef that has been awarded the distinction of being one of the Best Chefs in America by some rating organization. Because of that she decided to try La Cipolina and was very disappointed with the food.

I became curious, thinking that maybe she went there on an off night, I decided to eat there myself. I too found the food very disappointing. It was uninspiring and lacked any fresh ingredients.

Do you know anything about this organization that rates the "Best Chefs in America"? What are their criteria and how they managed to award a chef that serves very uninspiring food.


Hi Ellen;

This is an excellent question.

The organization you are referring to is “Best Chef America”.

Their validity as a credible chef rating service remains to be demonstrated.

Here is what I know about this service:
This is a new initiative that has yet to publish it’s first guide. The publication will be a 386-page coffee table book that they claim will be available in March 2013. The cost of this guide will be $75.00.

This organization is not a non-profit and is not supported by donations, grants or member fees and is not supported or endorsed by a credible restaurant industry body of knowledge.

Other than saying the “Best Chefs” are nominated by their peers and they use a “proprietary method” for selecting “Best Chefs”, they do not define what they mean by a peer. There are no restrictions on the who the “peers” are including being the restaurant owner or being affiliated in any way with the restaurant they work at.

They have not yet published a set of minimum certification standards or qualifications that chefs must meet. They do not conduct in-person tastings and interviews.

Very little is known about the qualifications of the body of judges that make the decision.

They do not have an Advisory Board or Board of Directors made up of the restaurant industry’s top and most respected Chef’s. None of the members of the executive management team appear to have any formal culinary training or notable chef credentials.

In the past there have been many similar attempts to create a rating guide for chefs, most of which have failed to survive beyond the first year. Typically these have been money making schemes that have failed to capture any serious attention from the restaurant industry, and especially from the best and most famed chefs in America.

This is not to say that “Best Chef America” is one of these. Nonetheless, before giving this guide ----- and any chefs included in the guide any serious recognition, we need to learn more about who is included, what their credentials are, and why they deserve the recognition. I especially want to hear from the restaurant industry and from some of America’s famed restaurants, chefs and critics.

This also raises another issue.
Who would buy this guide? Most likely the chefs and/or the restaurants who are listed in this guide. Since this is not a non-profit foundation that receives donations, grants, or membership fees, to make this venture financially viable they would have to sell an awful lot of guides. What this suggests is that to increase sales they would be motivated to recruit and list a lot of chefs in the guide. A 368 page guide suggests there will be a lot of chefs listed. The more chefs listed, the more sales. Doing that would need to water down the criteria and standards of the chefs to the point where it would not be a critical selective process that lists the top tier or elite group of “Best Chefs in America”.

Restaurant diners looking to place value in a “Top of Best Chef“ award might want to follow the lead of the restaurant industry’s top restaurant owners, chefs, and critics who recognize the James Beard Foundation as the gold standard for identifying and bestowing awards on the most deserving chefs.

Happy dining,


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