Reactions to “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants” List

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Amid enormous hoopla at the ceremony in London, and plenty of social-media chatter around the world, Restaurant magazine announced the 2013 edition of the “World’s 50 Best Restaurants” yesterday. The buzz was so intense that a Spanish newspaper leaked the list, as if it were the results of a national election, or at least the Oscars. Breathless congratulations flooded the ‘net from writers, celebrity boosters, chefs, and so on. But bubbling beneath all the excitement was a palpable sense of dissent from certain corners of the food world. The lingering question of the day seemed to be, “Who cares?”

On the surface, the annual list is no different than any number of “best” lists that media (including ourselves) create and perpetuate every day. But it has gained such an outsized reputation (everyone from CNN to the dude at the bar casually references “the best restaurant in the world,” yet few people even know what the list is or how it’s created), and its scope is so unreasonably vast, that it feels even more arbitrary than most.

So what are the perceived problems with The List? Here are a few interesting questions that tempered yesterday’s hype frenzy:

Why are there so few women? On the Village Voice food blog Fork in the Road, critic Tejal Rao wonders how only 4% of the world’s best kitchens are run by women. (The female chefs represented are Elena Arzak Espina of #8 Arzak in San Sebastián and Helena Rizzo of #46 Mani in São Paulo.) “For a list that’s meant to represent the international restaurant scene, that number seems distressingly low,” Rao writes. [Village Voice]

Does it cheapen restaurant culture? Bonjwing Lee, who documents his impressive international dining escapades on the Ulterior Epicure, doesn’t mince words in expressing his disdain for the list: “At best, these are the fifty trendiest (or most-publicized) restaurants in the world, as determined by a rather insular group of voters that includes chefs and restaurateurs (many of whom work in restaurants that appear on the list), food journalists, and bloggers (some of whom are not shy about announcing their position as a ‘World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ voter to chefs and restaurateurs upon their arrival).” He goes on to say, “You chefs and restaurateurs – all of you, both the ones on the list and the ones who aspire to be on the list: good for you for exploiting San Pellegrino, because San Pellegrino is exploiting you.  But make no mistake: by supporting this list (or any other ranking like it), you are ensuring your own expiration.  For, what goes up, must come down.” [Ulterior Epicure]

Is it ethical? With a simple tweet, New York Post critic Steve Cuozzo suggests that the process of putting together the list might have some flaws. [Twitter]

Is it just one big PR circus? The UK blog Staff Canteen, a resource for industry pros, digs into the background of the list, which it says “started off in 2002 as an idea for a quirky one-off article.” The editorial gathers some opinions from PR folks and restaurant biz vets, including this one: “Media hype, according to Drew Smith, is what accounts for some rather wild swings in the placings from year to year with some restaurants changing as much as 27 places in successive competitions. ‘It works on gossip,’ he said. ‘So you get a sort of perceived wisdom which isn’t really checked.’” There’s also an interesting discussion of how the quirkier picks, like Fäviken, make it into the conversation in the first place. [The Staff Canteen]

Lack of geographic diversity. Is Spain really that much of a powerhouse, and does Japan really have no restaurants that can compete for a top 10 spot? Hmmm. [@fedification]

The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, 2013

1. El Celler de Can Roca, Girona, España
2. Noma Copenhague, Dinamarca
3. Osteria Francescana Modena, Italia
4. Mugaritz San Sebastián, España
5. Eleven Madison Park Nueva York, EE UU
6. D.O.M. São Paulo, Brasil
7. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Londres, Gran Bretaña
8. Arzak San Sebastián, España
9. Steirereck Viena, Austria
10. Vendôme Bergisch Gladbach, Alemania
11. Per Se Nueva York, EE UU
12. Frantzén/Lindeberg Estocolomo, Suecia
13. The Ledbury Londres, Gran Bretaña
14. Astrid y Gastón Lima, Perú
15. Alinea Chicago, EE UU
16. L’Arpège París, Francia
17. Pujol México DF, México
18. Le Chateaubriand París, Francia
19. Le Bernardin Nueva York, EE UU
20. Narisawa Tokio, Japón
21. Attica Melbourne, Australia
22. Nihonryori RyuGin Tokio, Japón
23. L’Astrance París, Francia
24. L’Atelier Saint-Germain de Joël Robuchon París, Francia
25. Hof Van Cleve Kruishoutem, Bélgica
26. Quique Dacosta Dénia, España
27. Le Calandre Rubano, Italia
28. Mirazur Menton, Francia
29. Daniel Nueva York, EE UU
30. Aqua Wolfsburg, Alemania
31. Biko México DF, México
32. Nahm Bangkok, Tailandia
33. The Fat Duck Bray, Gran Bretaña
34. Fäviken Järpen, Suecia
35. Oud Sluis Sluis, the Netherlands
36. Amber Hong Kong, China
37. Vila Joya Albufeira, Portugal
38. Restaurant Andre Singapur
39. 8 1/2 Otto E Mezzo Bombana Hong Kong, China
40. Combal.Zero Rivoli, Italia
41. Piazza Duomo Alba, Italia
42. Schloss Schauenstein Fürstenau, Suiza
43. Mr & Mrs Bund Shanghai, China
44. Asador Etxebarri Atxondo, España
45. Geranium Copenhagen, Dinamarca
46. Mani São Paulo, Brasil
47. The French Laundry Yountville, EE UU
48. Quay Sydney, Australia
49. Septime París, Francia
50. Central Lima, Perú

[via Eater]

  • http://twitter.com/ShezchOne Sheshela Maduna

    great food for thought, come to think of it ; what is the actual criteria for this list? Id love to know that.

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