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Osteria Francescana Tops List of World’s 50 Best Restaurants


A restaurant in Modena, Italy, won the top prize Monday night as the 2016 edition of the influential World’s 50 Best Restaurants list was unveiled at a New York City gathering attended by hundreds of chefs from around the world.

Last year’s top two winners exchanged places: Osteria Francescana became the first Italian restaurant to reach No. 1, while El Celler de Can Roca in Catalonia, Spain, dropped to No. 2. Eleven Madison Park in Manhattan moved up from No. 5 to No. 3.

But the biggest surprise was the announcement that the Copenhagen restaurant Noma was chosen No. 5; it had been in the top three every year since 2009.

Two other American restaurants made the list for the first time: Saison in San Francisco, with a high debut at No. 27, and Estela, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, was No. 44. Le Bernardin, in New York, fell to 24 from 18; Alinea, in Chicago, moved up to 15 from 26; and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., rose to 48 from 49.

Three other American restaurants landed on the organization’s “long list” of 100 for the first time: Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare; Benu, in San Francisco; and Cosme, in New York, one of the few restaurants on the list with a woman, Daniela Soto-Innes, in charge of the kitchen.

In April, Dominique Crenn was named World’s Best Female Chef, despite the fact that her San Francisco restaurant, Atelier Crenn, has never appeared on the list. The New York chef April Bloomfield cooked for the event, though she has so far been excluded.

The list of restaurants ranked 51 through 100 was announced last week. Both Per Se and the French Laundry showed up there, dropping their esteemed American chef, Thomas Keller, from the top 50. Three American restaurants fell off the list altogether: Coi, in San Francisco; and Masa and the NoMad, both in New York.

Since it began in 2002, the list has proved its power, making international stars of chefs like René Redzepi, Magnus Nilsson and Andoni Luis Aduriz, whose culinary innovations or remote locations (or both) would have once kept their restaurants from being internationally famous. It has become so popular (and profitable, with the opportunity for multiple sponsorships) that sub-lists — 50 Best Restaurants in Asia, 50 Best Restaurants in South America — have been established, with more to come.

This was the first time since the awards began that the event took place outside London, a move intended to highlight haute cuisine’s increasingly global and decreasingly Eurocentric focus. (Next year’s awards ceremony will be held in Melbourne, Australia.)

“Putting the chefs all together in New York allows for amazing conversations that wouldn’t happen otherwise,” said Sean Brock, a chef from Charleston, S.C., whose adventurous Southern restaurant, Husk, has yet to crack the list. “Being around the people that operate the best restaurants in the world helps me see the big picture.”

With success has come scrutiny. Some chefs, on and off the list, have asserted that lobbying plays a part in how the list is compiled; last year, a short-lived movement called Occupy50Best protested what it called the awards’ cronyism and sexism. (The honored chefs are overwhelmingly male and, on the world list, overwhelmingly white.)

Many other chefs are uncomfortable spending time and money to jockey for a higher position.

“Traveling to prepare dinners for journalists or voters, hiring specialized P.R., targeting special media — playing the game can be fun, but ultimately it is a distraction from who we are and why we work at Manresa,” said David Kinch, whose Bay Area restaurant is at No. 83 this year.

William Reed Media, the British media company that administers the awards, has made steps toward transparency, including hiring the Deloitte firm to oversee the ballots that come in from 27 regions and more than 1,000 voters worldwide.

This year, some “academy chairs” (the regional chiefs who choose the voters) who had potential conflicts of interest stepped down: Boris Yu, chairman for China and Korea, who is also a restaurant owner in Hong Kong; Roser Torras, chairman for Spain, who is a well-known restaurant publicist; and Andrea Petrini, chairman for France, who is an organizer of prestigious culinary events. All were replaced by journalists.

But the voting system, in which voters are not necessarily anonymous and are allowed to accept free meals and trips, is still a consistent target of criticism. So is the list’s tendency to elevate cutting-edge gastronomy above traditional cuisine.

And so is the very notion that all the restaurants in the world — of every kind, in every country — can be ordered according to which is “best.”

Andre Chiang, a chef in Singapore who consistently appears on the list, said that the list’s embrace of the new is more important than its rankings.
“I always say that this list is not about rank or who’s on top of the other,” he said. “But it is an indication of trend and direction, because these 50 chefs who choose to step out from their comfort zone are pushing the boundaries and leading the culinary scene of tomorrow.

Please click here to see the full list of winners.

Source: NYTimes