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World’s best restaurants celebrate culinary diversity

July 18,2018
Chefs from all over the world celebrate after the announcement of top 50 restaurants in the world, at the award ceremony for World’s 50 Best Restaurants, in Bilbao, Spain last month. [WORLD'S 50 BEST RESTAURANTS]
Culinary professionals mingle, above and left, at events during the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, which happened in Bilbao, Spain. Bottom left: Chef Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana, second from the right, with the three brothers of El Celler de Can Roca of Spain, with chef Joan Roca in the far right. [WORLD’s 50 BEST RESTAURANT, LEE SUN-MIN]
BILBAO, Spain - What to put on plates and what to do with the leftovers are the main topics of conversation whenever the world’s top chefs get together at major culinary events these days. Besides sharing thoughts on how to present food in creative and colorful ways, chefs are also thinking more and more about minimizing food waste and were comparing ideas at this year’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants event late last month.

Massimo Bottura, whose restaurant Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, was named the No. 1 restaurant in the world this year, wants “normality” when comes to food distribution. He believes that everyone should have access to good quality food no matter their financial background, which inspired him to start focusing on soup kitchens.

After earning the No. 1 spot in 2016, a non-profit organization called Food for Soul which chef Bottura, started along with his wife Lara Gilmore became more active and opened soup kitchens in Paris, London and Rio de Janeiro named Reffetorio. He also plans to open more locations in North America soon.

After being named to the top of the list this year, he reiterated the need to “feed the planet first.”

Published annually by William Reed Business Media, “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants” hold an awards ceremony for its honorees in a different city each year. It has also spun-off with lists for Asia and Latin America to better promote newly rising food capitals to avid diners.

Different from the Michelin Guide, which only reviews restaurants in cities that have been chosen by the list organizer, over 1,000 designated voters from all over the world can nominate and vote for restaurants in any city around the world. Each voter can choose up to six restaurants from their home country among their 10 choices.

The second spot in the list went to El Celler de Can Roca, a Spanish restaurant run by three brothers and a two-time winner of the list. Chef Joan Roca of the El Celler de Can Roca believes that the global community created by the list will create a different future for the culinary world.

“What many restaurants in Spain go for is something modern with inspirations coming from something traditional, but that can be [changed] as nowadays cuisines are getting more connected and what next generation chefs experience when they are young is different from what chefs [working now] at restaurants have had when they were young,” said Roca.

He explained that the definition of what’s modern and what’s traditional will change in the coming decades.

“Children [in Spain] are growing up eating Korean, Japanese, or Mexican, so the future will be more like personal cuisine of individual chefs rather than cuisine based on which country they have grown up in.”

Many of the chefs receiving recognition are those who mix and match food from their background with the food from the city they are currently in. Chef Mauro Colagreco of Mirazur in Spain takes inspirations from his Argentine-Italian background, while chef Mitsuharu Tsumura of Maido in Lima, Peru, adds his Japanese heritage to his dishes.

With the award ceremony in Spain, local restaurants took advantage of the opportunity to appeal to international diners. One of the biggest forces behind restaurants in Spain gaining global attention is the active communication among chefs there. Chef Roca said that using the same ingredients in different ways makes it fun for visitors to the country, who go restaurant-hopping during their travels. This year’s sixth-ranked Asador Etxebarri focuses on grilling ingredients, while No. 9 Mugaritz focuses on molecular gastronomy, which changes the form of ingredients while maintaining their taste.

While the influence of Korean-style cooking and dishes can be seen by many chefs overseas trying to make their own version of kimchi and many airlines serving Korean dishes like bibimbap (rice mixed with vegetables), no Korean restaurants made it to the Top 50.

The closest was Mingles, which is ranked No. 78 this year.

“Getting that recognition globally isn’t an easy thing,” said chef Kang Min-goo of Mingles, adding that as while it is hard to get recognition, winning is worth it because it brings more opportunities.

Chef Ana Ro? of Hi?a Franko in Kobarid, Slovenia proves that being included in the list has helped her out in many ways. She said since she was chosen as the Best Female Chef at the 2017 version of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants event, there has been not only more chances for her to share her ideas with diners around the world but it has also created more opportunities to talk to tourism organizations about the importance of making food part of travel programs.

Besides having a restaurant ranked on the list, being the host city also helped some local restaurants get discovered by the international diners. Some culinary experts hope to see their home country host similar culinary events to boost their local culinary community.

“Hosting this kind of event in Korea could raise the chances of a local restaurant getting ranked on the list,” said Choi Jung-yoon, a vice-chair of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants academy, which manages voters in Korea. However, hosting these kinds of international culinary events needs both public and private sponsors, which Choi said is difficult to arrange at the moment due to the lack of public interest.

The location of next year’s award ceremony for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants has not yet been announced. Asia’s event will be in Macau once again, for the second year in a row.

BY LEE SUN-MIN [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]

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