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Jim Tabilio (deceased)

Born in New Jersey, he lived in San Francisco and Los Angeles before moving to Sacramento. His work takes him to all parts of California and across the nation.

Jim Tabilio is the best non-professional chef in America. According to Jim Tabilio. His wife, Marty, has years of experience making restaurant reservations while their kitchen is being steam-cleaned after each of Jim’s major dinner adventures.

Eating their way across four continents over 25 years, the Tabilios have developed a check list of what works for them in restaurants: quality ingredients, a committed chef with a point of view, excellence in kitchen execution and service by a staff of professionals who are not consumed with writing screenplays or stand-up monologues on break.

Their strong preferences are toward ethnic restaurants. (High-end regional Italian from North or South is not ethnic cuisine; it’s home cooking from the old neighborhood in Jersey.) Other favorites include Indonesian, Thai, Afghani, Pakistani, Persian, Greek, various regions of India and Mexico, and French if cooked personally by Daniel Boulud or Hubert Keller. They lean decidedly away from the culinary specialties of the Netherlands, Canada and most Midwestern states.

Jim and Marty have been known to kill for authentic New Haven or New Jersey pizza, real New York bagels (H & H) with belly lox (Zabar’s) and a schmear, or a roasted pork, sharp provolone and bitter greens with garlic hoagie from DeNic’s in Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market – none of which have ever been closely approximated in California. On the other hand, try to get a decent barbacoa taco in Hoboken.

Also, a great burger is nice.

(Jim Tabilio died Feb. 16, 2011. We are leaving his biography and restaurant recommendations on the web site in honor of his friendship and memory. Other co-hosts have agreed to monitor these restaurants to assure their continued worthiness.)