This year, a Copenhagen-based restaurant (not Noma) snagged the top spot. But there’s a growing sense of privilege and ignorance marring this year’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
Considered sacrosanct by most in the culinary world, The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list was released recently, marking its 20th anniversary. This year, the event was held back where it all first began, in London’s Old Billingsgate on the bank of the River Thames on 18 July.
Hosted by actor Stanley Tucci, the 1-50 list was unveiled, where Copenhagen-based restaurant Geranium was named the world’s best restaurant and consequently, the best restaurant in Europe.
Run by Rasmus Kofoed and Søren Ledet, Geranium was the previous year’s runner-up, and the second Danish restaurant in as many years to top the list.
“Rasmus Kofoed, Søren Ledet and their team have created an unforgettable dining experience, taking seasonal cooking to superlative heights and delivering precise, beautiful and elegant food that combines art and flavour alongside a ground-breaking drinks programme,” says William Drew, director of content for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
Central in Lima came in at #2, while Disfrutar in Barcelona ranked at #3. As of now, Central is the first South American restaurant to enter the top three on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
The top 50 names include restaurants from 24 territories in five continents across the world. Among them are 12 new entries and two re-entries. Further, of the top 10 restaurants; Spain is the most represented with three: Asador Etxebarri, DiverXO, and Disfrutar.
Mexico landed two entries, Quintonil at No. 9 and Pujol at No. 5, making the latter the best restaurant in North America.
Other notable prizes include The Highest New Entry Award. This went to Uliassi in Italy, which debuted at a dizzying number 12 on the list. There was also the Icon Award, which went to Wawira Njiru, a Kenyan social entrepreneur who founded Food for Education, a social enterprise that provides school meals to 40,000 kids per day. The Estrella Damm Chefs’ Choice Award, which is voted for by other chefs on the list, went to chef Jorge Vallejo of Quintonil in Mexico City.
Voted for by a panel of 1,000 culinary experts, the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list was originally released in 2002 by a UK trade publication, Restaurant. In its early years, the list was meant to be an antidote to the illustrious and often rigid Michelin-star ratings.
However, as it continued to gain status amongst the who’s who of the culinary world, it became a business in itself, often coming across as cheerleading for the exotic rather than a meritorious ranking. The brand rolls off the tongues of fine dining fans with as much ease as Michelin-star today.
But what led to the disgruntlement amongst the food community? For the most part, it revolves around the lack of representation. Restaurants in international travel destinations (looking at you Europe!) inevitably rank higher as judges tend to frequent those places. In spite of India being the second most populous country in the world, there’s a grand total of zero restaurants on the list. Ditto for Africa. In fact, it’s just a restaurant or two from Japan that represent all of Asia on the list this year.
Another country that seems to have missed the list by a mile is Australia. Where Ben Shewry’s high concept Ripponlea restaurant Attica consistently placed on the list till 2019, no restaurants made it to the top 50 list this year. In the long list, only Melbourne’s Gimlet placed at number 84, making this the continent’s worst performance in a decade.
For a list that commands influence in circles that matter, it comes off too much the opposite of inclusive to be exhaustive. Add to that whispers of abhorrent working conditions, a shrinking economy, and a shift in diner’s opinions towards easy dining experiences, and you have a bunch of pressing issues.
Of course, women are too far too few. Firstly, there’s no explanation for a separate award celebrating the World’s Best Female Chef. One might’ve wondered that 2022 didn’t need a chef to be presumed a male profession. The insult to injury however comes as Best Female Chef Leonor Espinosa De La Ossa’s restaurant, Leo in Bogota, Colombia, barely cracked the Top 50 list at No. 48.
It’s giving high school clique vibes, where an obscure list of ‘experts’ use opaque methodology to assign numbers that generate instant publicity and goodwill. Indeed, winning the lottery might seem more likely than securing a reservation at any restaurant off this list. And that’s while boasting the privilege to break the bank enough once there.
Opulence and criticism apart, the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list is still one that’s hard to ignore. Take a look.
50. Singlethread, California
49. Ikoyi, London
48. Leo, Bogotá, Colombia
47. Oteque, Rio de Janeiro
46. Belcanto, Lisbon
45. Narisawa, Tokyo
44. Le Bernardin, New York
43. Boragó, Santiago, Chile
42. Quique Dacosta, Dénia, Spain
41. La Cime, Osaka, Japan
40. Schloss Schauenstein, Fürstenau, Switzerland
39. Sorn, Bangkok
38. Jordnær, Copenhagen
37. Fyn, Cape Town
36. Odette, Singapore
35. The Clove Club, London
34. Hisa Franko, Kobarid, Slovenia
33. Atomix, New York City
32. Mayta, Lima, Peru
31. Arpège, Paris
30. Florilège, Tokyo
29. St Hubertus, Dolomites, Italy
28. Le Clarence, Paris
27. Hof van Cleve, Kruisem, Belgium
26. Restaurant Tim Raue, Berlin
25. Frantzén, Stockholm
24. The Chairman, Hong Kong
23. The Jane, Antwerp, Belgium
22. Septime, Paris
21. Mugaritz, San Sebastian, Spain
20. Den, Tokyo
19. Piazza Duomo, Alba, Italy
18. Alchemist, Copenhagen
17. Nobelhart & Schmutzig, Berlin
16. Elkano, Basque Country, Spain
15. Reale, Castel di Sangro, Italy
14. Don Julio, Buenos Aires
13. Steirereck, Vienna
12. Uliassi, Senigallia, Italy
11. Maido, Lima, Peru
10. Le Calandre, Sarmeola di Rubano, Italy
9. Quintonil, Mexico City
8. Lido 84, Gardone Riviera, Italy
7. A Casa do Porco, São Paulo
6. Asador Etxebarri, Basque Country, Spain
5. Pujol, Mexico City
4. DiverXO, Madrid, Spain
3. Disfrutar, Barcelona, Spain
2. Central, Lima, Peru
1. Geranium, Copenhagen