The World’s 50 Best Restaurants: how it works

The World’s 50 Best Restaurants: how it works

by Great British Chefs 27 March 2017

As the global awards ceremony sets up shop in Melbourne to announce the list for 2017, we catch up with founder William Drew to look at how it all began.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Michelin, The Good Food Guide, AA Rosettes, Hardens, Yelp, TripAdvisor – with so many different restaurant guides out there, we’ve never had it better when it comes to eating out. But one of the youngest guides has quickly risen to become internationally recognised, and can change the fortunes of a restaurant immeasurably with a mention. The World’s 50 Best Restaurants is only fifteen years old, but to come top of the list is one of the greatest accolades a chef can get.

Last year’s winner was Massimo Bottura and his Italian restaurant Osteria Francescana; before that it was El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain and institutions like Noma and El Bulli have won it several times. But as the list becomes more and more international, breaking out of Europe and into the Americas and Asia, new entries to the list are constantly appearing. This year the ceremony is being held in Melbourne, Australia, to reflect this.

‘We decided that as a truly international brand representing the best of gastronomy globally, we should reflect that in its choice of locations,’ says William Drew, group editor of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants and Restaurant Magazine. ‘So after fourteen successful years in London, we embarked on a global tour. The first stop was New York in 2016, the second is Melbourne in 2017. Why Australia? Because the food and wine culture is so strong and exciting and there is a great appetite to welcome the culinary world. Why Melbourne? Because, for us, it’s the food capital of Australia.’

The awards have expanded massively over its fifteen year history, with chefs all over the world now eagerly awaiting each year's list
Last year's winner was Massimo Bottura and his Italian restaurant Osteria Francescana

The list is created in a unique way – a result of the collective and subjective opinions of over 1,000 voters worldwide, in a bid to provide a snapshot of expert opinion. ‘It is based on taste, which can never be truly objective, but the results are a credible indicator of the best places to eat around the world and a genuine gastronomic reference point,’ says William. ‘The credibility and integrity of the voting process and results are reinforced by the involvement of Deloitte as the independent adjudicator of the list.’

By looking at restaurants all over the world – instead of just major cities and western countries like Michelin – The World’s 50 Best unearths little-known gems from countries that don’t necessarily have a globally renowned food scene. ‘There are plenty of countries with emerging food scenes that I’m excited about. Chile, Columbia, Germany, Ireland, Turkey, the Philippines, Korea and, of course, Australia.’

With food trends coming and going, certain cuisines falling in and out of fashion and a thirst for different, exciting ways of dining, every year the list is peppered with new, contemporary restaurants. But William is keen to stress that there needs to be something more than just innovation on the menu. ‘People are always interested in what’s new, but what’s new also has to have value beyond its novelty,’ he explains. ‘Equally, established restaurants are frequently featured in the list too – some for the majority of its fifteen-year history. Restaurants must surely evolve to be successful, but different restaurants choose to change at different rates and it’s up to each to decide the right pace of change for them.

‘Chefs should simply keep striving to improve to maintain their place on the list,’ adds William. ‘Never sit back and think you have ‘made it’ and can therefore stop moving forward, and don’t radically change your philosophy as a result of being on the list.’

This makes the experts at The World’s 50 Best some of the best people to ask about emerging restaurant trends. ‘We’re seeing much greater casualization of service, but matched with high professionalism,’ says William. ‘More and more vegetables, too – not just tokenistic, but central to the menu. People are rediscovering deep culinary history as well; a greater sense of independent indigenous (i.e. non-European) identity for ‘new world’ cuisines. And there’s an open exchange of ideas between chefs and cultures across the world.’

As the awards gear up for their 2017 list (announced on April 5 from Melbourne at 11am GMT), William is looking forward to seeing the world’s best chefs come together and show how strong the global community is. ‘We’ve been surprised at the awards’ rapid growth and success – and the genuine camaraderie of the chefs,’ he says. ‘The creation and nourishment of a global chef community that supports each other, celebrates, collaborates and innovates together is one of the achievements that we are the proudest to have contributed to as an organisation.’