By Josette Keelor
In the upstairs kitchen of Apartment 2G in Front Royal, cameras record executive chef David Gedney at work with wife, pastry chef Stacy. Patrons in the adjoining dining room can watch their entrees or desserts progressing while they dine, and Gedney said they might even glimpse one of the couple's young children scurrying past.
"People seem to get a kick out of it," he said.
The Gedneys' apartment kitchen also intrigued the authors of Best Chefs America, who had their eyes on Gedney -- not to see what he would cook up for them but what he might serve a nation hungry for something unique.
In researching their listing of the top chefs from around the country, editors sought the aid of professionals: other chefs. It's a chefs' guide to chefs, and after 10 months of interviews with more than 5,000 chefs nominated by their peers, as well as culinary professionals and food enthusiasts from around the country, Best Chefs America chose nearly 4,700 to highlight in its first edition.
Elizabeth Fishburne, marketing coordinator of Best Chefs America, said the publication does not have influence over who is included.
When interviewing potential chefs for the listing, she said by phone recently, "we wanted to present a very accurate and thorough representation."
"It basically came down to, you know, the chefs who got the most recognition ... the ones mentioned the most by their peers," Fishburne said.
Among those featured are Gedney; Scott Myers, executive chef at L'Auberge Provencale in White Post; and Ed Matthews, of One Block West in Winchester.
Matthews said his interview with Best Chefs America was extensive, lasting about 20 minutes.
The publication asked him mainly about the food he offers and his cooking philosophy.
"I started One Block West 11 years ago," he said. It was his second career, after he left the information technology field.
"We've been very, very consistently highly rated by our guests for years," he said. The restaurant bases its food selection on serving seasonal, mostly local food.
"Our menu literally does change every day," Matthews said. "Our menu's very spontaneous and it changes on what walks through the door."
Previously at L'Auberge Provencale for three years, Myers returned to the restaurant at the Clarke County French country inn in November after two years working in Montana.
By coincidence, "Washingtonian" magazine also was interested in L'Auberge at the time, first sending out taste testers in October and again in November when Myers returned.
But Myers had no idea Best Chefs America was considering including L'Auberge in its inaugural issue.
"It wasn't anything that we really knew was going on," Myers said. Afterward, "I believe they sent an email to us."
He said the restaurant has tried to keep meals consistent despite staffing changes.
"We do a huge amount as a team, it's not just one person here," he said.
Assistant innkeeper Jessica Shambaugh said Myers has no cause for modesty.
"I think it's incredible," she said. "I think that Scott especially deserves recognition."
He tailors his whole menu around what's fresh and in season, Shambaugh said.
"He uses local purveyors all the time," she said. "Now's the time when we can do farm to table. It changes almost every day."
Gedney, too, said being a part of Best Chefs America was a nice surprise.
"It's a good list of folks, I know that," he said. "For me it's most interesting to see Front Royal [included]."
In 2004, he and his wife moved to Warren County from Northern Virginia after Gedney opened his second-floor restaurant above a wine, cheese and gourmet shop owned by Marjorie Martin. That year the couple expanded into the next living space and three years later purchased the shop downstairs.
"In this space there was a woman who lived here for 38 years," Gedney said. He named his restaurant 2G in tribute to European restaurants that frequently inhabit apartments previously used as homes.
Gedney chose Front Royal after seeing Martin's advertisement for chefs to teach cooking classes above her store. A show he taught sold out, and he said Martin saw potential in letting him have the upstairs permanently.
"It was just a matter of putting together a deal that would work out for both of us," Gedney said.
"I don't think you could open a restaurant for less than a million," he said. "To find an opportunity like this was one in a million."
Apartment 2G entertains odd hours, open from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Saturdays and on the third Thursday of the month to serve Tapas -- "tastes of things that are meant to be shared," Gedney said.
Each Saturday he offers a seafood dish and two meat dishes.
"Up here it is much more structured," he said.
In the downstairs bistro, J's Gourmet, he offers five to eight appetizers and seven to 10 entrees each day.
The bistro opens at 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, with a closing time that varies depending on the crowd.
Dishes he tries out upstairs often become mainstays downstairs.
"It's kind of like a testing ground," he said, but customers can rely on more expensive offerings upstairs. Gedney said he's tried rotating out entrees, but the filet mignon was too popular to dismiss from the menu. Customers praise the risotto too for its worthiness as an entrée.
Gedney calls his style "continental or eclectic."
"What I often do is borrow flavors," he said. "Incorporate a flavor into a dish, [not] forcing these two cuisines together, which is what fusion used to be."
He said those who travel to Front Royal for food are looking for something different, so he doesn't want to offer the same thing they'd find in Northern Virginia or Washington.
That they're willing to drive so far for his food makes all the difference, he said.
"To me, that's the greatest honor."
For more information about J's Gourmet or Apartment 2G at 206 S. Royal Ave., Front Royal, call 540-636-9293 or visit www.jsgourmet.com. For more information about L'Auberge Provencale at 13630 Lord Fairfax Highway, White Post, call 540-837-1375 or visit laubergeprovencale.com. To contact One Block West, at 25 S. Indian Alley, Winchester, call 540-662-1455 or visit oneblockwest.com. For more information about Best Chefs America, which is available online for $75, visit www.bestchefsamerica.com.
Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org