The "World's 50 Best" List Is Published, Is Usual Steaming Pile of Irrelevance

Categories: Indigestion
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Oh, look, this year's edition of "The World's 50 Best Restaurants", sponsored by San Pellegrino and its subsidiary Acqua Panna, has come out. Cue the precious online debates and the bored yawns from the rest of the world.

Ranked lists of the best anything are patent bollocks: they necessarily reflect the devisers' biases and experiences, since no food writer or group of food writers has ever eaten in every restaurant worldwide. Smarmy lists like this, especially when they purport to have catalogued the very best, make my sphincter itch.

The restaurants on the list are certainly not bad--they're fine restaurants which deserve a place in the pantheon of the finest places to get your grub on--but the order is, like nearly all lists, completely arbitrary.

It's also an unapologetically Euro-centric blowjob of a list. It seems obvious that they voted for the best of each non-European area and then slotted them in amongst the offerings in England, France, Italy, Spain and Denmark. Europe holds 31 of the top 50 slots and 57 of the top 100; the United States accounts for 8 of the top 50 and 14 of the top 100. Never mind the amazing heritage of Chinese cuisine, the relentless obsession with the best in Japanese cuisine, the echoes of history in Mexican cuisine. No, it only matters if it's European.

The group, to their credit, is developing a list of the fifty best restaurants in Asia, to be released in February 2013. It's a fair bet, however, that it'll be a list of restaurants that appeal to Western tastes in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore, Seoul and possibly Shanghai or Beijing.

The restaurants on the list are also all, without exception, shockingly expensive. This is less a travel guide than the gustatory equivalent of the Seven Summits. It's easy to imagine the "mountaineers" who attempt to complete the "World's 50 Best" as the sort of tedious, well-paid professionals whose enjoyment comes not from the meals themselves, but from achieving that soul-satisfying moment where the last carefully straight-edged line strikes through the final item on the list.

Bollocks. It's just like the worldwide expansion of the Guide Michelin under Jean-Luc Naret, which was swiftly followed by its worldwide contraction after people realized that sending the arbiters of French taste in restaurants to non-French restaurants in order to publish a once-a-year snapshot of the world's most dynamic industry was swiftly pushing the guide into ignominious irrelevance.

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8 comments
Mr. Rosewater
Mr. Rosewater

And here I was waiting for Dave's "Top-Five Reasons This List Doesn't Matter." Oh well.

Mo_abdullajd
Mo_abdullajd

Ranked lists are completely arbitrary, but it's ironic that the source of this article is a writer on a blog where they revel is making lists (especially as of late).  Food writing is full of such lists and as silly is it seems to rank restaurants given the amount of personal taste that goes into judging food, it's what is interesting to many people who don't have the time to eat at every place out there and need a focused point of view when reading an article (i.e., many readers generally have no time to read a bunch of reviews and want the cliff's note version that top-10 lists offer). 

As for the affluence, most of these restaurants are very expensive.  But many people can save for the occasions that they will maybe once or twice go eat at.  It's certainly not as out of reach as other luxuries.  I've read stories of aspiring chefs who have saved money just to travel and eat these restaurants.  These restaurants are very interesting and doing interesting cooking regardless of where they are.  It's nice to have this "Top 50" as a reference, and nothing more. 

Carlos Salgado
Carlos Salgado

Respectfully disagree that the list is TOTALLY irrelevant. While many, maybe most, are the usual winners of the affluent epicure's popularity contest, there is some real, world-class talent honored there. An ordered list is ridiculous, yes, but more than a few in the 50 and 100 are among the world's most interesting by any standards. 

Manresa and Coi in the US, Pujol in Mexico, Faviken in Sweden, Quay and Attica in Australia, Relae and Geranium in Denmark... these are some of the chef-world's most influential, despite beings somewhat under-the-radar as far as popular press in concerned.

It's not a pure list, and it's targeted to an elite few, but there are many deserving, relavent restaurants and chefs represented here - teams that are contributing so much to the art and craft and global conversation of modern cooking.

Greg Mulligan
Greg Mulligan

Best headline, ever! Great take on the world of elite dining, too.

JB
JB

I can't be the only one who almost laughed out loud when this rant was followed by the italicized  "Follow Stick a Fork In It on Twitter @ocweeklyfood or on Facebook! And don't forget to download our free Best Of App here!

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

Which was pretty much my point—there is a LOT of talent here. Dinner at El Celler de can Roca ("The Cellar at Roca's House") was one of the best meals I've ever had, but how do you know if it's #2, or #8. How can you compare them?

It's the usual problem of picking from the known; if your restaurant is awesome but unknown, you won't be on this list. And I maintain that ranked lists are usually crap.

Carlos Salgado
Carlos Salgado

Agreed! These lists should really be "in no particular order," if they must exist at all.

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