It must be the most coveted award for any restaurateur, ‘The World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ but it is currently also the most controversial. An online petition against the coveted award, referred as the Oscars of fine dining, which is sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna, has been making the rounds. The petition calls for sponsors to stop supporting the awards, calling them “opaque, sexist, and priggishly self-pleasing.” The petition, Occupy 50 Best, started by three friends in France — food blogger Marie Eatsider, documentary filmmaker Hind Meddeb, and PR agency owner Zoé Reyners urges sponsors of the awards to withdraw their financial support so that the ranking system can lose its prominence.
The petition also points out that many of the “award-winning restaurants” were literally intoxicating their customers – case in point, the Fat Duck and Noma that dealt with norovirus contaminations and the shuttered elBulli, where poisonous chemicals were being used. If that’s not all, there is a clear over-representation from partner countries and very few female award winners – which they tried to remedy with a Best Female Chef award. The awards are also known to have upset some of the biggest names in gastronomy by omitting Michelin-starred industry titans or placing them behind young, un-starred chefs. The petition has so far received 134 signatures, which includes the Editor-in-Chief of Bouillon Magazine, Will Jansen, chefs from around France like Jean-Andre Charial of L’Oustau de Baumanière in Provence and Eric Jambon of Domaine des Sequoias in Ruy.
In response to the accusations World’s 50 Best have appointed Deloitte as an independent adjudicator to validate the voting process for the awards that will take place on June 1, 2015 at London’s historic Guildhall.
The entire episode takes us to the basic question – why do we need these awards? Also why are the “World’s Best” list limited to upscale restaurants? With the emergence of professional and amateur food bloggers, food critics, easy access to information and reviews online and through social media including Twitter, Four Square and Zomato – why not reach the masses through paying-diner-reviews. So many well-established, award-winning restaurants invest so much in the chef, the kitchen team, design and décor, marketing and PR and remains lackadaisical about customer service and service etiquette.
Titles like these are great PR and if even a nororvirus outbreak did not cost Noma its number one spot, it surely is all PR. As a reader and diner, I wouldn’t turn to The World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ as a reference point ever. Tell us what you think.
[Via – The Eater]