Note that consulting is a sideline for these people, who also work as writers, tour guides and teachers--so it can take a while for them to get back to you. When you connect, be specific about your interests, time frame and budget; the more they know, the better they can do their job.
Stephanie Curtis, France
Years Abroad 12
Background Curtis came to France to write and began working with food guru Robert Noah, who ran Paris en Cuisine, a travel service for Americans passionate about French food. In 1993, when Noah died, his friends and clients turned to her to help them navigate the French culinary world.
Services Books hotels and restaurants throughout France--some virtually inaccessible to the average traveler; draws up itineraries; organizes tastings and tours.
Missions Accomplished Arranging entrée to the famed Maison du Chocolat, for chocolate tastings; to Rungis, the largest market in Europe, just outside Paris and usually restricted to wholesalers; to both Lionel Poilane's and the Ganachauds' highly touted bakeries, to watch the bakers; and to the exclusive wine-making châteaus of Bordeaux.
Most Remarkable Coup Getting reservations at some of Paris's most impenetrable restaurants, like Pierre Gagnaire.
Recommendations For those Desperately Seeking Robuchon: Jamin, the restaurant where the lamentably retired Joël Robuchon first got three Michelin stars and where his former sous-chef, Benoît Guichard, now presides. For a new reasonably priced restaurant: Le 6 Bosquet in the Seventh Arrondissement.
Insider's Tip Finer restaurants will cancel reservations not confirmed 24 hours in advance; confirmations are part of Curtis's reservations service.
Rates $325 for a day of her planning time (a full week's itinerary usually requires a day to a day and a half); $80 for a tour of Rungis (5 A.M. to late morning, including transportation and breakfast); $20, per restaurant reservation for a party of up to six. Note: She quotes her fees (except those for the reservations) in francs, so dollar rates here are approximate.
Contact Information 10 Rue de Richelieu, Paris 75001; 011-33-1-40-15-0457; fax 011-33-1-40-15-0458.