NOAH ADAMS, host:
This is Day to Day. I'm Noah Adams.
ALEX COHEN, host:
And I'm Alex Cohen. There are hundreds of thousands of restaurants all over the world, but fewer than 70 of them have earned three stars in the famed Michelin Guides. Andy Hayler has made it a mission to eat at as many of those three-star restaurants as he can. He joins us now on the phone from his home in London.
Welcome to the program, Andy. And can you tell us, approximately how many of these restaurants have you eaten at to date?
Mr. ANDY HAYLER (Food Critic, Writer): Well, I think at all of them, actually. So, there were - in 2008, there were 68 three-star restaurants, and in November, I went to the last of those. And so, until the 2009 season kicks off, I've pretty much been to all of them.
COHEN: And this has all been, we should note, on your own tab. Flying to these places, eating at them, I can't imagine this is an inexpensive hobby. Might I ask how you're able to afford all of this?
Mr. HAYLER: I don't actually think it's an incredibly expensive hobby. I mean, if you compare it to, say, one who drives the best car in the world, you know, I think it's just what I spend my money on, and, you know, I live in London. I don't even bother with owning a car in London because we have such good public transport here. So I save some money that way.
COHEN: Andy, you have dined all over the world. Can you describe some of your absolute favorite three-star meals?
Mr. HAYLER: Yes, I think one of my long-term favorites has been a place called Louis Cannes in Monaco. It's on the French Riviera. That's a place with fantastic ingredients. So you've got a tremendously good local market there. Another one which might surprise people is - probably the best meal I had last year was actually in Germany. And I think German food is, you know, you tend to think of it a bit like (unintelligible)...
COHEN: Sauerkraut and sausages and things like that.
Mr. HAYLER: Yeah, exactly. I mean, you know, it was the best of times, it was the wurst of times, you know?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. HAYLER: But they are serving French food, I have to say.
(Soundbite of laughter)
COHEN: So wait. This is a restaurant in Germany, but they serve fine French fare?
Mr. HAYLER: Yeah, yeah. And all of the three stars in Germany do that. None of them actually serve, you know, sort of, pig's lung and bratwurst and so on, I'm afraid.
COHEN: You write a food blog, and you write about these restaurants you go to. But unlike other restaurant critics, you're paying for your own meals. Do you think that gives you a different perspective?
Mr. HAYLER: I think it does. And I think it means that I care quite a lot about value for money. And I don't mind saying it's kind of strange for someone who's eating in very expensive restaurants, but it does mean that I, you know, even in the top places, I actually care about what I'm getting for my money (laughing) because it's my money.
If you - you see, if you're being paid to go by the New York Times or whatever, you know, then, you know, you can go to somewhere like Masser(ph) in New York and spend, you know, was it - it's $440 before you've even - including service - before you've even had a drink. And, you know, you can have that meal and say, yeah.
COHEN: On what? (Laughing) I mean, I'm just flabbergasted.
Mr. HAYLER: I know, it's unbelievable. I mean, it's $450, you know, but there's 20 percent service automatic, and that's before you've had a drink. It's a sushi bar, you know? And it has three stars, and - to me, it's not - it was ridiculously expensive for what it was, you know, when in Tokyo, I could also go to a three-star sushi bar that was better. And that was $120 including drinks.
COHEN: Andy, just curious, on days that you're not doing the three-star meals, what do you normally eat? Do you keep up the kind of fine cuisine, or do you just kind of do sandwiches and hamburgers so you can really appreciate those good gourmet meals?
Mr. HAYLER: It's kind of varied. I do eat out about five days a week. But I also have to go to the gym five days a week (laughing) to sort of try to pay for that. And then on the other days, I mean, I'll very often - I mean, I'm very fond of Indian food, for example, which is a very strong thing in London, and very, very happy to go to little, sort of, you know, cafes.
And so I'll have, you know, fish and chips or something if it's good, and to me, it's all about whether it's good in its context, you know? So it's, I mean, you know, you can have a really superb, say, you know, fish and chips or a superb hamburger. Yeah, those are all, you know, to me sort of equally valid as something that's, you know, very, very fancy.
COHEN: The 2009 Michelin editions just came out. Are there any new three-star restaurants that you're really excited about in the year to come?
Mr. HAYLER: Well, the - one of them was Masser in New York, so I wasn't very excited about that, I must say...
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. HAYLER: Which I went to. I mean, I'm actually quite excited about one of the ones in Hong Kong, which is a Chinese restaurant, and that'll be the first three-star Chinese restaurant, and that could be potentially really exciting.
COHEN: Andy Hayler writes about food on his food blog, andyhayler.com. Thank you so much, Andy.
Mr. HAYLER: Thank you very much indeed.
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