StevePlotnicki’s passion for food has long been an intrinsic part of his life, if not always his career. A native New Yorker, he was a successful guitarist and songwriter before co-founding Profile Records in 1981. In 2003, he launched a discussion forum, which morphed into his “Opinionated About Dining” blog, a project that established him as one of the most prolific early food bloggers. Initially conceived as a way to share information about his dining experiences with other enthusiasts, “Opinionated About Dining” continued to evolve and attract readers. In 2007,Plotnickideveloped a formal survey for readers and fellow diners and published a 56-page booklet in 2008 featuring the 100 best restaurants in North America and Europe. Since then,Plotnickihas further refined the survey process authored and published Opinionated About U.S. Restaurants in 2011, and continually publishes the rankings of the top restaurants around the world.
Aside from this he has appeared in Foodies: The Culinary Jet Set, adocumentary on the fine dining subculture of foodies. The interest in haute cuisine has grown exponentially. Now, we enter the world of one of the most influential people on the food scene –the foodie. A subculture of blogging food critics with a mission to eat at the best restaurants on earth. Through our close study, we get access to the world’s most exclusive restaurants and get to know a group of slightly bizarre but charming food maniacs.
Where are you from and where did you grow up?
I was born in Brooklyn, in Williamsburgh. I grew up in Bayside, Queens.
Tell us about your path to entering into the world of food. How did you first become interested in fine dining?
When I owned my record company I used to attend Midem every January in Cannes.It is sort of the music industry’s version of the Cannes Film Festival. It was the mid 1980’s and the height of the nouvelle cuisine era and over the course of a week I could enjoy meals prepared by culinary greats like Roger Verge, Jacques Maximin and Jo Rostaing.
Where did you get your inspiration for your 100 restaurant guide?
The process that I use to compile the OAD Top 100 Restaurants is the culmination of a decades worth of discussing food and wine on Internet discussion forums. It was during those discussions that I realised that there was a greater degree of subjectivity when discussing food and wine then there was when discussing things like classical music or cinema. At first I attempted to write about food on my blog from a more objective perspective than one typically sees in the media. But then I developed an algorithm that was intended to express the same thing.
What process goes into composing the list?
We have close to 5,000 reviewers who are registered for the sight. Though it is really the top 150-200 reviewers who act as the engine for the rankings. The algorithm assigns a weight to each reviewer based on the quantity and quality of the restaurants they have been to and a weight to each restaurant based on the quality of the reviewers they attract and what those reviewers think about it.
Why do you think your digital restaurant guide has proved so successful? Could it be said to rival other well-known restaurant guides such as Gault & Millau and Michelin?
I think Worlds50Best is a better comparison than Gault Millau or Michelin. Those guides hold themselves out as being ultimate authorities on the subject of dining. There is nothing wrong with that, but I have always found that singular authorities are slow to adapt to changes in the marketplace. Look at how Michelin still awards three stars to Paul Bocuse when I do not have a single reviewer whogives his restaurant ourhighest ranking.
What have been your most memorable dining moments over the years?
That’s a hard question because it is split between the best emotional moments and the best cerebral moments. On the emotional side, my first taste of Robuchon’s lightly scrambled eggs with caviar, or his pommes puree, are written on my taste memory with indelible ink.On the cerebral side, two dishes that made a tremendous impacton me areAlain Passard’s tomato dessert, which is the first successfulattempt at creating non-representational cuisine, and which also served asthe gateway forcreations like Adria’s spherical olives, and AndoniAduriz’s 40-hour sous vide beef cheeks with pepper tearswhich revolutionizedthe way contemporary kitchens approached meats that were traditionally braised.
Tell us a bit about your role in the film ‘Foodies’?
My wife says that what sets me apart from the other people in the film is that I am the only one who has an agenda that extends beyond just having a sensual experience. I believe that the key to getting people to eat better is to educate them about food the way they are educated about other subjects. The producers of the film noticed that about me and they fed me a series of questions to highlight my approach to the subject.
What do you think the overall aim of the film was?
It was intended to show our influence in the food world
Where do you see the future of fine dining heading?
I think it is getting more casual, and will continue to do so. There was a time where I enjoyed dining at classic French restaurants with crisp table cloths with opulent serving utensilsand five servers standing around waiting to pour more water into your glass afteryou take a mild sip. But nowadays I truly dislikethat environment.And it is not because I do notenjoy luxury because I do. But I am there to celebrate the food and the artistry of the chef,not my status in life and the fact that I can afford the meal. I think the dining experience is going through a period of adjustmentwhere they are trying to do a betterjob of balancing those two things out.
Where is currently top of your lost of places to dine and why?
It might sound strange but I have sold my soul to my reviewers and I basically go to whichever new places they have been going to. On the list of places I plan on visiting in 2016 are Gueyu Mar in Asturias, Taller in Copenhagen, The Table by Kevin Fehling in Hamburg and the new Jean-George Klein restaurant at the Villa Lalique in Alsace.