The Worlds 50 Best Restaurants List has attracted controversy once again, with criticisms that it is too “insidery”. But industry insider advice is exactly what you want when seeking restaurant tips.
There appears to have been a lot of sour grapes about the Worlds 50 Best Restaurants List from people who don’t know how the awards work, are disgruntled because they’ll never be on the list or run the risk of slipping off the list, or appear to want it to be voted on by the general public because it’s too insidery. But that’s the whole point.
The Worlds 50 Best Restaurants List as Industry Insider Advice
When we travel to a new city, or revisit an old one, we want insider advice. That is exactly why we always ask food writers and critics, chefs, restaurateurs, and well-travelled gastronomes for their tips, who are exactly the kind of people judging these industry awards.
The awards are, in a major way, a formalisation of what has occurred in the restaurant industry for years — when the kind of people I mentioned above, who constitute the voters of the Worlds 50 Best Restaurants, travel to a new destination they ask others like them where they should eat.
For example, when we went to Asia’s 50 Best awards in 2014, everyone we knew who had recently eaten in Singapore suggested we try a new restaurant that was consistently cited as being outstanding.
It was the most talked about restaurant in the industry in Singapore. It had not even been written about at the time, but every food professional we spoke to on photo shoots and in interviews and when dining out asked “Have you been to X yet?”
This year that restaurant made the list. Industry people liked it. They told other industry people about it and they liked it. They visited it and then they voted for it. It’s really quite straightforward.
I’m also finding that sort of thing increasingly happening on Instagram as well. A chef or food writer posts an image of a dish from a restaurant in a destination they are visiting and in the comments there will be recommendations by other chefs, restaurateurs and critics agreeing that the restaurant is great, or people saying that they’re adding it to their must-try restaurants for when they visit that place. That’s exactly how restaurants end up on the list.
But when restaurants like Brae in rural Victoria in Australia make the list, and restaurants from destinations that don’t normally get a look in, like Mikla in Istanbul, earn a well-deserved place on the list, it’s evidence that the reach is becoming greater.
The Worlds 50 Best Restaurants list is thankfully becoming a lot more global than the Euro-American-centric list that it was. In some ways, the list has gone a little to far to correct this — as much as I’ve enjoyed dining at Zuma in Dubai (equal number 88 on the list), it’s not close to being one of the best 100 restaurants in the world.
So should there be some kind of ‘people’s choice’ awards as part of the Worlds 50 Best Restaurants to make the awards more inclusive? No, these are industry awards. Although now run independently, they were originally started by an industry publication, Restaurant magazine.
If you want the consensus of the dining public, head over to TripAdvisor and go through the list of the top places to eat in a destination. Happy dining. I know who I’ll be going to for restaurant advice when heading to a new city — the same sort of people who vote for these awards.