The Best Restaurant in the World

People need to understand. If they go to a show on Broadway and find seventy people working but only fifty spectators, how much would the ticket cost?… But you can also think of it this way: How much would it cost to eat something that nobody else is eating?” – Ferran Adria

Massimo Bottura, chef and owner of Osteria Francesca after the announcement.*

In 2016, Osteria Francescana was named the best restaurant in the world. When we dined there in April, before the announcement, it was “only” second best. I have saved my report on our dinner there for the last couple of posts about our trip and I will get to them next. Before I tell you about our dinner, it is probably helpful to give a background to the significance of the title.

Massimo Bottura with the Italian flag.*

In 2002, the British magazine Restaurant published a list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. It was compiled from votes cast by the “Diners Club World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy” and sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna. Today the results and the awards are organized and published by William Reed Media.

Will Guidara and David Humm of Eleven Madison Park, 2017 winners.*

The “academy” established a group of 27 panels from regions around the world. They are made up of 34% restaurateurs and chefs, 33% food writers, and 33% recognized (not sure by whom) gourmets. Each panel has 35 members and each member votes for their own personal choice of seven restaurants at which they have eaten in the last eighteen months. They are supposed to vote for up to four restaurants from their own region and a minimum of three from anywhere else. The voters remain anonymous and the process is supposed to be confidential.

All of the winners for 2017.*

“The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list provides an annual snapshot of the opinions and experiences of almost 1,000 international restaurant industry experts. It is a globally recognized gastronomic reference point which showcases leading trends and highlights great restaurants from all corners of the Earth. What constitutes ‘best’ is left to the judgment of these trusted and well-travelled gourmets. There is no pre-determined checklist of criteria but there are strict voting rules. The results are a simple computation of votes. The World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ voting process and results are subject to independent adjudication by world-renowned professional services consultancy Deloitte.” – From the Manifesto of The Diners Club World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy

Even chefs have to eat. Mozzarella Balloon by Grant Achatz, Alinea, Chicago.*

“Best”, of course, is in the opinion (and the taste) of each voter. Since everyone’s tastes are different, it follows that everyone’s idea of what makes a great restaurant experience is different. The quality of food is generally regarded as primary, closely followed by the service. However, both the style of the food and service, the surroundings, ambiance and even the price level are all factored in the mind and to the standard of each voter.

The List is not meant to be a restaurant guide like those in Trip Advisor or Yelp and certainly shouldn’t be compared with the Michelin list. It is not a suggestion of where one should eat tonight. It is more a “moment in time” of what interests the panelists in any given year. A dinner there can be, and often is, theater, where the diner is an integral participant in the action.

I can attest that our dishes at Osteria Francescana were mind-bogglingly (is that a real word?) unique as well as incredibly delicious. Each was developed to the highest degree of sophistication with presentation to match – all in concert with Chef Bottura’s philosophy of what the dishes were all about (ex. “An Eel Swimming Up the Po River” or “Five Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano”). Was it the best food I have ever tasted? Maybe. Was it the most intellectually stimulating and satisfying? Absolutely! As I mentioned earlier, I will provide more details in my next post.

The top three winners since 2002:

Year 1st 2nd 3rd
2002 elBulli, Spain Gordon Ramsay, UK The French Laundry, USA
2003 The French Laundry, USA el Bulli, Spain Le Louis XV, Monaco
2004 The French Laundry, USA The Fat Duck, UK elBulli, Spain
2005 The Fat Duck, UK el Bulli, Spain The French Laundry, USA
2006 elBulli, Spain The Fat Duck, UK Pierre Gagnaire, France
2007 elBulli, Spain The Fat Duck, UK Pierre Gagnaire, France
2008 elBulli, Spain The Fat Duck, UK Pierre Gagnaire, France
2009 elBulli, Spain The Fat Duck, UK Noma, Denmark
2010 Noma, Denmark elBulli, Spain The Fat Duck, UK
2011 Noma, Denmark El Celler de Can Roca, Spain Mugaritz, Spain
2012 Noma, Denmark El Celler de Can Roca, Spain Mugaritz, Spain
2013 El Celler de Can Roca, Spain Noma, Denmark Osteria Francescana, Italy
2014 Noma, Denmark El Celler de Can Roca, Spain Osteria Francescana, Italy
2015 El Celler de Can Roca, Spain Osteria Francescana, Italy Noma, Denmark
2016 Osteria Francescana, Italy El Celler de Can Roca, Spain Eleven Madison Park, USA


*All images are courtesy of “The 50 Best Restaurants in th World”

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