If you ask any professional foodie what their dream job would be, they would probably tell you they are already living it. But what tops that? Well, professional foodie, Andy Hayler can tell you. Given that his experience has been enough to deem him worthy of a guest seat on the judge’s panel on the U.K.’s MasterChef: The Professionals. With his extensive resume you can’t really be surprised.
Back in 2004, Andy was traveling all over Europe for work, and like many businessmen he had time to kill between meetings and such. So Andy decided to properly expand his palate and only eat at 3 Michelin stars rated restaurants. It was then that the hobby of being a foodie became an obsession for the former general manager of Information Management at Royal Dutch Shell.
Of course at the time this was a feasible goal given that there were only 49 restaurants at the time and all located in Europe. In 2012 that number doubled when 102 restaurants were rated with the prestigious 3 stars- since 2016, there are 111. Everywhere from Hayler’s hometown of London to Asia, Japan, North and South America, and Australia are all home to fabulous dining experiences that Andy tries his best to keep up with.
Andy is now a food critic for the Elite Traveler and reviews restaurants for them and his own personal website, Andy Hayler’s Restaurant and Hotel Guide. Andy does not judge his dining experiences lightly either, he gives them a fair review and has a strong opinion on whether or not the establishment deserves the high regard. Of course he isn’t completely prejudice, Andy also has dined at 2 and 1 star Michelin restaurants, and according to him the ratings all have to do with the food not the decoration.
“There was a myth among chefs that you had to have incredibly expensive glassware, the best crockery, and they’d invest in all these things. But over the last 10 years, you’ll see restaurants where they are not the grandest restaurants and still have three stars. It’s just the best food on the planet. If it gets three stars, it should be a pinnacle of cuisine. And when you take the best of those three-star restaurants, it is.”
However, per Andy there are different levels within the 3 star rating, there’s the bottom of the category, which in his opinion- which really deserve only two stars, there’s the upper segment, which are the ones that absolutely deserve the 3 stars, but in the middle… Well, I’ll let Andy describe it.
“In the middle you’ve got some very good food, but they’re not quite as good as the ones at the top. I think a place like Schloss Berg in Germany or Alinea in Chicago would be in that upper class. Those are the ones to me that really stand out.”
No matter the rating they may have in common, Michelin star restaurants differ from each other throughout the world, and according to Andy Hong Kong is really taking over the brand right now. It was a sushi restaurant in Tokyo with a secret location in a multi-story car park that took him the most by surprise, Sushi Saito.
“You literally walk in and walk past the barrier, and there’s what looks like a janitor’s closet to the right. You walk through that door and you’re suddenly in the best sushi restaurant in Tokyo. It only has seven seats, and it’s been rated #1 in Japan for ages. I’d go back there more often if I could get a reservation.”
However, he thinks that it is Germany that has the strongest Michelin establishments in the world. Sadly, the place where Andy has had “the best meal ever” was a restaurant named Jamin in Paris, but it has since been closed. His second pick is Ledoyen, which is also in Paris, Andy claims there’s a dish there named spaghetti but the name does it no justice.
Like many foodies, Andy dines at his own expense, which obviously does not come cheap. The most expensive meal he has ever had was at a New York based restaurant named Per Se, a wine pairing dinner experience there costs about $800 a head. The amount he spends a year depends on how many establishments he decides to visit, prices vary all over the world.
Andy isn’t one to shy away from the kitchen, when he isn’t eating glorious meals and having the best dining experiences in the world, he likes to cook and like many of us, loves a good pizza. However, you won’t find any frozen meals in his fridge.