Why The World's 50 Best Restaurants 2019 List Is More Controversial Than Ever (2022)

Even now, five years on, René Redzepi’s face still lights up when he recalls the April night his restaurant Noma was named best restaurant in the world for the fourth time. After a difficult 2013, whose nadir came when the Copenhagen restaurant dropped one position on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, reclaiming the title the following year felt like redemption. “We had been wondering is this it? Is it the beginning of the end?” Redzepi, 41, said with a smile as he surveyed the crowd at a recent outdoor party in Copenhagen’s meatpacking district. “ So when we won, it was like “Oh, you still like us.” It was even better than the first time.”

On June 25, when the 18th edition of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ lavish award ceremony takes place in Singapore, he may well get the chance to repeat the sensation. After closing the original Noma in 2016 and re-opening it in 2018 in a new location and with a new menu tied more closely to the seasons, Redzepi and his team are again among the favorites to cinch first place on the prestigious list. But as of this year, no other chefs — at least apart from any who have also rebuilt their restaurants from the ground up — will have the same opportunity. In January, the organizers of World’s 50 Best announced that any restaurant that takes or has previously taken the top spot on the list is disqualified from subsequent editions and moved instead to a Hall of Fame-like collection called The Best of the Best. That includes 2018’s #1, Osteria Francescana, as well as five other revered restaurants.

It might seem a small matter, but coupled with other recent changes, the new rule — which came as a shock to many in the restaurant industry — reveals a tremendous amount about the relationship between chefs and an institution that for nearly two decades has played an outsized role in determining which restaurants receive the lion’s share of bookings, accolades, and media attention. And it raises a question that only a few years ago would have been unthinkable: in this age of social media, can any conventional system for evaluating restaurants, including World’s 50 Best, remain relevant?

Why The World's 50 Best Restaurants 2019 List Is More Controversial Than Ever (1)

Italian chef Massimo Bottura talks with the press after receiving the Best Restaurant award for his restaurant L´Osteria Francescana during the World's 50 Best Restaurants awards in Bilbao on June 19, 2018.

Ander Gillenea— AFP/Getty Images

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Launched in 2002 by editors at the U.K.-based Restaurant magazine, the World’s 50 Best Restaurants ranking quickly became one of the most influential forces in modern gastronomy. A restaurant that earns a spot on the list routinely sees a bump in reservations, and those that make the top 10 can expect a bombardment from eager diners and media alike. “Within 24 hours of the ceremony, we got 2 million booking requests,” says Catalan chef Joan Roca, whose restaurant El Celler de Can Roca, took number one in 2013 and 2015. “We’re still feeling the impact.”

Beyond the publicity frenzy, the list also gained influence by tapping into the very human need for approval and belonging. Unlike the Michelin Guide, which is judged by a small group of anonymous inspectors, the 50 Best ranking is today decided by more than a thousand mostly well-known chefs, food writers, and gourmands — a composition that gratifies chefs whose restaurants make the list with the knowledge they have the respect of their peers. “To know that the people you so admire return the affection is a beautiful feeling,” explains Roca.

Yet for all its success, the ranking has always been plagued by controversy. There is no prohibition against lobbying, nor are voters required to pay for their meals, so some countries’ tourist boards — and even some individual restaurants — have subsidized expensive junkets to bring jurors to their tables. The list has also had difficulties achieving regional and gender diversity. Only 16 — a historic high — of the restaurants on 2018’s list are located outside of Europe or the United States. Five of them (also a record high) are led by women, although three of the women (at Arzak in San Sebastian, Cosme in New York, and Central in Lima) share their restaurant’s head position with a man, and another (at Nahm in Bangkok) assumed the role from its former male head chef too late in the year to have been considered.

Why The World's 50 Best Restaurants 2019 List Is More Controversial Than Ever (2)

A picture taken on July 7, 2016 shows employees working in the kitchen of the "Osteria Francescana" restaurant in Modena.

Giuseppe Cacace—AFP/Getty Images

While some individuals gripe about “forcing” women onto the panel, the restaurant industry as a whole has become widely alert to its need to reduce its long-entrenched sexism, especially in the wake of #MeToo, which revealed harassment and abuse at a number of formerly well-regarded restaurants . So far,the measure has not been met with significant resistance.

More controversial, however, is the decision to remove previous number #1s from subsequent competitions. The organization presented the move as part of its efforts to diversify the list’s upper echelons. “There was some stagnation in the top 10,” says Pietrini. “We don’t want to artificially skew it, but we think it’s a healthy decision to make sure we’ve got a new dynamic every year.”

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Yet although World’s 50 Best decided to create The Best of the Best itself, TIME reporting found that the rule change to withdraw winning restaurants from subsequent competition did not come from the organization itself. It was actually proposed — some would say imposed — by half a dozen or so highly ranked chefs, some of them former #1s, some of them close to the top..

Massimo Bottura, whose Modena restaurant Osteria Francescana took the top slot in 2016 and regained it last year, was one of them. “In the last several years it’s been us, the Rocas, and René Redzepi as at least two of the three best restaurants in the world,” he says of their motives. “I think it’s time for others to be there, especially from the younger generation.”

Bottura says he first heard of the idea years ago from Gaston Acurio, whose Lima restaurant Astrid y Gaston is currently #39 on the list. “When I accepted the award [in 2013] for best restaurant in Latin America, I said to the audience that I hoped to see someone new in my place the following year,” Acurio says, adding that he later mentioned the idea to the organization’s administration. “I believe the 50 Best shouldn’t be a tool for competition but a union that promotes excellence, diversity, and talent.”

But according to a source with knowledge of the process who asked for anonymity because he did not have permission to speak publicly on the subject, the core group that began pressing in earnest for the change last year was driven not only or even primarily by an attempt to unclog the top, but also by an effort to avoid the decline in reputation that some notable chefs have suffered once they fell from first place. Daniel Humm, whose restaurant Eleven Madison Park in New York won the top spot in 2017, acknowledges the impact of a drop was a factor in the group’s proposal. “We’ve seen restaurants fall down the list even though they were getting better and better,” he says. ”There have been a few chefs in the past who started to feel more pissed off and mistreated, and they started to not show up [to the ceremony], and that was hurting the whole thing, because the spirit of 50 Best is community.”

Why The World's 50 Best Restaurants 2019 List Is More Controversial Than Ever (3)

People enter the Noma restaurant in Copenhagen, on April 27, 2010 the day after Noma was chosen for the world's best restaurant, according to the Worlds 50 Best Restaurants Award, which was awarded in London.

Casper Christoffersen—AFP/Getty Images

For a handful of chefs to upend the rules of the game in order to avoid the perception of diminishment gives a sense of just how influential the ranking has become. Some highly-regarded chefs tell TIME they have experienced depression for failing to make the list, while others, like Christopher Kostow of Napa Valley’s Meadowood, have lambasted it for skewing toward the new and “hot” rather than rewarding the kind of excellence that comes only with years of practicing a craft. “It’s an assassin list,” agrees Ferran Adrià, whose restaurant elBulli held the title five times before it closed in 2011. He, like Redzepi, only learned of the new rule once it was publicly announced. “Once you fall, you disappear not only from the list, but from the [industry’s] whole little world.”

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Yet, by removing winners from subsequent consideration, the new rule may well undermine 50 Best’s own influence. In the past, the sustained presence of a restaurant like elBulli or Noma in the top slot helped turn their respective countries into gastronomic powerhouses. “If a chef in Seoul won four times in a row, Korea would become an international culinary destination,” says Adrià. “If she wins only once, it’s nice for her, but it won’t have the same effect.”

And of course, the ranking itself runs the risk of losing credibility since it no longer represents all of the best restaurants. “That’s exactly the kind of question we asked ourselves,” Pietrini admits of the administration’s deliberations. “It was not a quick decision. I know there are rumors that we were pressured into it. I will only say that at the end of the day, the decision was ours alone. And we would not have made that decision without a long-term plan.”

As part of that long-term plan, the organization appears to recognize that its future may not lie with the ranking. Later this year, it will launch a global database, called 50 Best Discovery, that tracks restaurants that garnered votes but not enough to make the ranking, and will also include bars from its sister list. “We want to take 50 Best from a listmaker to a media platform, and as I like to say internally, a progressive force,” she says. “Our objective is not to be more influential.”

Of course, they may not have much choice in the matter. Other awards, rankings, and guidebooks have emerged in recent years, and although none has yet attained the prominence of 50 Best, they have eroded the perception of the list as the newest, most plugged-in kid on the block.

Why The World's 50 Best Restaurants 2019 List Is More Controversial Than Ever (4)

Ana Ros of the Hisa Franko restaurant in Kobarid, Slovenia, cooks one of the most surprising meals of the weekend at Exquisite Corpse, in New York City's Chelsea district, September 24, 2011, thrusting her tiny country into New York's limelight.

Andrew Eaves—AFP/Getty Images

And the impact on bookings and attention that 50 Best enjoyed now been far surpassed by the wildly influential Netflix show Chef’s Table. Ana Ros, of Slovenia’s Hisa Franko, goes so far as to say the show, on which she appeared in 2016, saved her business. “We went from having empty tables several months of the year to having a permanent waitlist,” she says. “Although we assume being on the list has had an impact (Hisa Franko entered the top 50 last year, at #48), we don’t know for sure. It hasn’t been as noticeable”.

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Even more challenging has been the rise of social media; to a significant degree, millennials make their decisions about where to eat based on what they see on Instagram, rather than on conventional reviews or rankings. That’s part of the reason why, after nearly a century of independence, the storied Michelin guide, which saw its own influence wane with the rise of World’s 50 Best, now accepts commissions from countries or regions eager for its coverage; Austria, for example, recently paid 600,000 euros to revive its defunct red guide.

One test of World’s 50 Best’s continued relevance at this year’s ceremony in Singapore will have less to do with who steps onto the stage to receive its top award than with who is applauding from the audience. In the past, the ceremony drew nearly every name on the list, along with dozens of other chefs who came for the party and the chance to see friends from all over the world. But increasingly, even chefs who have been recognized by it — like Christian Puglisi of Copenhagen’s Relæ, who won the organization’s sustainable restaurant award in 2015 and 2016 (#56 on this year’s list) and Dominique Crenn, who in 2016 won the organization’s controversial Best Female Chef award — are speaking out against the kind of publicity, networking, and deep pockets that the list is perceived as rewarding. And this year, some heavy hitters, including Grant Achatz of Alinea (#34 in 2018) and — even though Noma is a contender for #1 — Redzepi won’t be there.

Redzepi is staying home because the ceremony conflicts with the opening of a new menu at Noma. But he is also opposed to the rule change, and wonders if it will ultimately reduce World’s 50 Best’s influence. “If a chef manages to create a restaurant that defines the zeitgeist for more than one year, shouldn’t the list reflect that?” he asks. That criticism is shared by Ros in Slovenia, even though her restaurant stands to benefit from the change. “I think it’s a faux pax that may hurt them,” she says. “I’m an ex-athlete, so I don’t understand how you can tell someone they can’t compete.”

As a former professional cyclist himself, Daniel Humm understands the sentiment. Although he says that he is “at total peace” with the fact that Eleven Madison Park is no longer eligible for the list, he’ll be attending the Singapore ceremony with mixed feelings. “I’ve got competition in my blood, so I’ve always liked going into that room,” he says of the hall where the world’s best chefs gather to learn of their ranking. “It’s like in basketball when it goes down to buzzer and there’s a guy taking a three point shot. I always want to be the guy with the ball.”

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FAQs

What is the #1 rated restaurant in the world? ›

World's Best Restaurant
Year1st2nd
2016Osteria FrancescanaEl Celler de Can Roca
2017Eleven Madison ParkOsteria Francescana
2018Osteria FrancescanaEl Celler de Can Roca
2019MirazurNoma
17 more rows

How are the 50 best restaurants chosen? ›

The list is created from the votes of The World's 50 Best Restaurants Academy, comprising 1,080 international restaurant industry experts, with a 50/50 gender balance.

What is the number one restaurant in the world 2022? ›

The World's 50 Best Restaurants has just named the world's best restaurants in 2022 at an awards ceremony in London. This year, the top place has gone to Geranium in Copenhagen, helmed by chef and restaurateur Rasmus Kofoed. In the last recognition, Geranium placed second on the prestigious list.

Which country is No 1 in food? ›

1. China. Chinese cuisine takes its flavor and variety of dishes from the country's deep-rooted history. Each region in the country has its own unique flavors.

Which country has the best food 2022? ›

  • Italy. #1 in Has great food. #14 in Best Countries Overall. ...
  • Mexico. #2 in Has great food. #33 in Best Countries Overall. ...
  • Spain. #3 in Has great food. #16 in Best Countries Overall. ...
  • Greece. #4 in Has great food. ...
  • Thailand. #5 in Has great food. ...
  • France. #6 in Has great food. ...
  • Turkey. #7 in Has great food. ...
  • India. #8 in Has great food.

Do 90% of restaurants fail? ›

Frequently Asked Questions About Why Do Restaurants Fail

The National Restaurant Association estimates a 20% success rate for all restaurants. About 60% of restaurants fail in their first year of operation, and 80% fail within 5 years of opening.

What are key challenges restaurants will face in 2022? ›

More than 50% of full-service, quick-service, and fast-casual segments reported labor recruitment and retention as the biggest challenge of 2022. Even though the restaurant and foodservice industry added back 1.7 million jobs in 2021 for a total of 14.5 million jobs, many restaurants are still understaffed.

What is the biggest trend of food so far of 2022? ›

Plant-Based Chicken

Expanding the alternative protein movement, plant-based chicken will be a star player of the food trends in 2022. Fast food chains are testing versions in select markets, hoping to expand their options beyond beef patties.

What is the only 7 star restaurant in the world? ›

Head to Al Iwan restaurant at Burj Al Arab, dubbed to be "the world's only 7-star hotel". Enjoy a high-class buffet lunch or dinner of authentic Arabian dishes while you take in the sea and city views of Dubai.

Which country has best doctors? ›

1. United States: On our list of the top ten nations with the best doctors in the world, the United States earns the top spot.

Which country eats most healthy? ›

1. Japan. You might have noticed that Japan frequently tops wellbeing lists online and in the press – and its population is indeed the oldest in the world. Diet plays an important role in this: as an island, there's a natural abundance of fresh fish on the menu, balanced by carbohydrates, vegetables, fruit and meat.

What country has the best education? ›

United States

Which country has the nicest people? ›

  • New Zealand. #1 in Friendly. #11 in Best Countries Overall. ...
  • Spain. #2 in Friendly. #16 in Best Countries Overall. ...
  • Italy. #3 in Friendly. #14 in Best Countries Overall. ...
  • Greece. #4 in Friendly. #25 in Best Countries Overall. ...
  • Canada. #5 in Friendly. ...
  • Netherlands. #6 in Friendly. ...
  • Australia. #7 in Friendly. ...
  • Norway. #8 in Friendly.

What is the unhealthiest food in the world 2022? ›

#1 Pizza. Being nicknamed for the love of pizzas, this name was hard to mention in the list. However, with highly refined dough, heavily processed meat and extremely high calories, pizza is one of the unhealthiest junk food in the world.

Which country has the spiciest food? ›

Mexico. There's no doubt, the Mexicans can make the spiciest food in the world with their penchant for Jalapeno, Pabloan, Habanero, Ancho and Serrano peppers. These chilli and peppers that we just listed out are known to be the spiciest ones that you can find in the world.

What is the #1 reason that restaurants fail? ›

1. Lack of vision. According to the Cornell University study “Why Restaurants Fail,” restaurants close because their leadership lacks a clear vision for the restaurant. A restaurant's mission statement and vision and are more than just its concept and menu—they should be at the center of every business decision.

What are 5 reasons why restaurants fail? ›

Based on that experience, here are five reasons restaurants fail:
  • Poor leadership.
  • Toxic culture.
  • Poor hiring and training.
  • Forgettable food.
  • Struggling with logistics, including food costs and all other overhead.
27 May 2020

What is the main reason restaurants fail? ›

Besides insufficient funds, location is a top reason for a high restaurant failure rate. Owners may choose the wrong place or select a site that isn't affordable for the long run. Your location needs to fit your concept and your market.

What are 3 factors that impact food safety in our restaurants? ›

Preventing contamination of food. Using gloves. Cooking food to the right temperature.

What factors are important in choosing a good restaurant? ›

How People Choose Restaurants: Top 10 Factors
  • 1: Experience.
  • 2: Delicious Food.
  • 3: Menu (Price + Offerings)
  • 4: Type Of Food.
  • 5: Service Quality.
  • 6: Friendly Staff.
  • 7: Location.
  • 8: Online Reviews.

What are the most important success factors for a restaurant? ›

A strong restaurant identity, hiring and retaining your staff and building a supportive environment, familiarizing yourself with profit and loss statements, creating a profitable menu (and learning how to market your best-selling items) are just some of the key elements of successful restaurants.

How do restaurants make guests feel special? ›

subscribe
  1. Genuinely welcome your guests.
  2. Give a pre-service gift.
  3. Use the guest's name.
  4. Train your servers to sell each dish.

How would you make customers feel special in a restaurant? ›

Appreciate & reward loyal customers

Addressing them by their name, remembering their regular order, table preferences, and communicating with them when they stop by will really make your regular customers feel important and keep them coming back.

What is the biggest challenge facing the food industry? ›

Food and Beverage Industry Challenges and Trends
S NoF&B Industry Challenges
1.Enforcement of Plastic Ban
2.Stringent Regulatory Landscape
3.The Pervasive Presence of e-Commerce
4.Rise of Veganism

What is the biggest obstacle or challenge that your business will face in 2022 *? ›

Common business challenges in 2022 include: being ready to respond to market trends, recruiting & retaining top talent, finding new growth opportunities, etc.

What will we eat in 2050? ›

Here are some foods to expect to see more of in the coming years.
  • Algae. ...
  • Seaweed. ...
  • Beans, Legumes and Nuts. ...
  • Wild Grains and Cereals. ...
  • Lab-Grown Meat. ...
  • False Bananas. ...
  • Insects. ...
  • Heat-Resistant Coffee.
26 May 2022

Is a food crisis coming 2022? ›

2022: a year of unprecedented hunger

As many as 828 million people go to bed hungry every night. The number of those facing acute food insecurity has soared - from 135 million to 345 million - since 2019. A total of 50 million people in 45 countries are teetering on the edge of famine.

Will there be no food in 2050? ›

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates the world population will surpass 9.1 billion by 2050, at which point agricultural systems will not be able to supply enough food to feed everyone. However, new research suggests the world could run out of food even sooner.

Which country has only 3 Michelin stars? ›

Summary
RankCountry (Regions)Number
1France (including Monaco)31
2Japan21
3United States13
4Italy12
14 more rows

Who has 3 Michelin stars in the world? ›

Now it is Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester and Le Louis XV that tend to be the most well-known – and the most awarded, with each boasting the maximum three Michelin stars. Le Louis XV also holds the title of the first restaurant to ever achieve such an accolade.

Is there a 8 star hotel? ›

Is there such thing as an 8 star hotel? Yes – there is. But there's only one, and that's the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, UAE. The Burj Al Arab oozes luxury and glamour, and comes with a hefty price tag per night.

What is the #1 rated restaurant in America? ›

The French Laundry in Yountville, California, made its debut in this year's awards as the #1 Fine Dining Restaurant in the U.S. With over 1,100 “excellent” Tripadvisor reviews, this 20-year-old French restaurant is called “bucket list” or “life changing” by diners who visit.

What is the #1 chain restaurant in the United States? ›

McDonald's

How many Michelin 1 star restaurants are there in the world? ›

But in a world of 195 countries and a population of nearly eight billion people, the reality is that Michelin Star restaurants are rare. Of that total, There are 2,290 restaurants with a single Michelin star, 414 restaurants with two stars, and 113 restaurants with three stars.

What is the least rated restaurant? ›

Colony Cafe - Miami

This Miami eatery regularly finds itself atop "worst restaurant in the country" lists and is the lowest-rated restaurant on all of Yelp. Why is it so bad, and how does it stay in business?

What is the unhealthiest restaurant in America? ›

Consumer Reports (CR) just dished on which ones are the worst. Of these, the Cheesecake Factory is the unhealthiest chain restaurant. It lacks whole grains, has large portions, and one dish with twice as much sodium as the daily recommendation.

What does 20 top mean in restaurants? ›

Top – The number in a dining party, as in “8 top at table 20.” See also: the number of seats at a table/how many guests a table could seat. Underwater/Drowning – Overwhelmed with customers; see also: “in the weeds.”

What is the cleanest fast-food restaurant? ›

Chick-fil-A won a blue ribbon for being the cleanest fast-food restaurant in America.

What food is the most ordered in America? ›

Most Popular American Foods
  • Burgers.
  • Apple Pie.
  • French Fries.
  • Hot Dogs.
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies.
  • Pizza.
  • Fried Chicken.
  • Grilled Cheese.
31 May 2022

Is KFC bigger than McDonald's? ›

Here are the rest of the top 10 fast food brands ranked by worldwide brand value, according to the study: McDonald's: $130.4 billion. Starbucks: $45.9 billion. KFC: $17.2 billion.

Who lost the most Michelin stars? ›

In total, Ramsay has lost 9 Michelin stars, and he still holds seven at his restaurants across the globe.

Is there a 7 star Michelin? ›

Chef Yoshihiro Murata is the only chef in the world to hold seven Michelin stars. He is the third generation of Japanese super chefs to run the century-old Kikunoi restaurant in the Japanese city of Kyoto.

What's higher than a Michelin star? ›

Michelin quantifies one star as being “high-quality cooking, worth a stop”; two stars is for “excellent cooking, worth a detour”; and finally, the prestigious three stars represent “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.”

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