Chefs, restaurateurs and industry types last night made their annual pilgrimage to London for the unveiling of the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. As usual, the ranking offered few surprises.
El Cellar de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, reclaimed the top spot (which it last held in 2013) while Denmark’s Noma slipped down into third and eccentric Italian chef Massimo Bottura’s Modena restaurant Osteria Francescana was placed second. Only one fine dining establishment from London made it into the top 10 – Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner at number seven while The Ledbury, previously at number 10, dropped down to number 20.
Such a high profile for Dinner, and its bizarre eclipse of the much superior Ledbury graphically illustrates i) the lack of credibility of the awards; and ii) the way that the top 50 Awards are just as much in thrall to celebrity as Michelin is.
Harden’s guide founder Peter Harden says: “The awards are basically a stich-up by the luvvie foodie journo crowd. Committees of the great-and-the-good of the foodie world enter smoke-filled rooms to put up lists for other luvvies to nominate. Of course, no-one has even come close to visiting all the restaurants – in fact how many have visited more than 2-3 out of the 50 in the last year? Ever?
“None of this matters, because the award’s true raison d’etre is as a shmooze-fest for the top chefs, who have no other global stage to prance on. The annual Guildhall get-together is tremendous networking for any chef, in the knowledge that an invite brings great photo-ops and easy PR back home. For the organisers, William Reed, it’s one of the most profitable things they do. Everybody’s happy, except a sometimes grudging media, who – predictably yet unrealistically – want news, news, news, and feel it is terribly stale if the same person is best this year as was last year.”
Last year The New York Times report called the whole process of selection -“increasingly influential but somewhat arbitrary”. This year there has been even louder criticism. Mr Harden adds: “With exposure comes scrutiny, with more people cottoning on to the fact that there are serious questions regarding a voting system dreamed up back in the day as a quick way of selling a few more copies of Restaurant Magazine.”
The award ceremony will be moved from London to New York next year.
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