It is that time of year where we’ll witness the gleaming gastronomic highlights of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list get put into place. That’ll be happening next week over in New York – but for a slight taster, the organizers have released those places ranked 51 – 100 on their site. This is where we find odd spectacles like Michelin-starred restaurants getting trounced by more casual eateries…
One of the notable members on the list is US chef Thomas Keller’s 3-star Michelin Per Se – just barely excluded from the top 50 at number 52. Last year it was ranked 40, but it’s received some scathing reviews of late, especially one two-star review by critic Peter Wells from the New York Times. Per Se is ranked second on La Liste. His other 3-star spot in Napa Valley, The French Laundry, fared even worse this year by being placed at number 85.
It is a bit eye-raising, though, to see the famous chef’s flagship be beaten by the starless casual French bistro Le Chateaubriand (number 74). There have been several points of contention about the ranking’s opaque process and biases raised by critics before. For one, the 50 Best list has been accused of favoring chefs from countries with which they built commercial ties, and they’ve also made enemies of the France’s high gastronomy society after failing to give French chefs spots on the top 10 list. Critics have also levied that the list is prejudiced towards favoring avant-garde gastronomy and ‘showbiz’ at the cost of the quality of the meals themselves. Le Chateaubriand might fall under this category, given that they practice changing the menu daily – ensuring that there’s a constant novelty in their dishes. Also beating The French Laundry at number 77 is the playful restaurant Den from Tokyo.
The highest on this section of the list happens to be Mani in Sao Paulo, Brazil – run by Helena Rizzo, who also won the Best Female Chef award back in 2014. The push-back in her ranking from number 41 to number 51 has been speculated to be due to the entry into the ranking of this year’s female chef award recipient Dominique Crenn.
The overall country topping this portion of the list is the US with nine spots. After the US, France is the second-most represented country with eight restaurants on the list, followed by Japan (four), Spain, Belgium and the UK which tied with three each. The list covers 21 countries, with 15 new entries and another four repeat appearances. The ranking itself is determined by the votes of 1,000 industry experts from 27 regions around the world and vetted by consultancy group Deloitte.
Of course, there are no lack of complaints, with those stated above as some of them. A French group retaliated against the World’s 50 Best by creating their own ranking entitled La Liste. In a bid for greater objectivity, they claimed theirs was based on a mathematical algorithm that took into account hundreds of guide books and online reviews. Their list had Restaurant de L’Hotel de Ville in Geneva as first, and Per Se ranked second.
Others in the food industry have said that while Michelin recognizes the quality of cooking, the World’s 50 Best Restaurants captures the zeitgeist of the culinary world. No matter which side you agree with, it’s always good to have more opinions, and more discussion. Either way we can see the list sticking around for some time.
You can check the current ranking over here.