Behind the World Restaurant Awards: A new annual food awards ceremony in the making
We are in Paris to mark a big announcement for the food world. It’s Monday morning, 11am. Joe Warwick and Andrea Petrini seem to know very well what shape these new annual global restaurant awards are taking. We have lunch at Spoon 2 by Alain Ducasse where chefs, press and organisers can meet and get to know each other before the workshops begin.
Do we need yet another food ceremony, guide or list? That’s what everyone wonders. There’s the very comprehensive Michelin guide covering territories individually, and there’s the World’s 50 Best Restaurants that achieved the extraordinary result of making our planet smaller, allowing restaurants in Cape Town and Hong Kong to compete with those in London and Paris. Of course, any guide or list comes with criticism: how can this restaurant have three Michelin stars and another have just one? How come all these top restaurants are run by male chefs? How do we know that the voting system actually reliable?
The creative minds of Warwick and Petrini saw a gap, and together with entertainment giant IMG – the guys who run the New York Fashion Week, Frieze Art Fair and Taste of London, among other things – decided to try and fill it. How? This is where it becomes interesting. Food media and restauranteurs are not summoned for an announcement, they are asked to help draft the rules. Throughout the day, we listen to proposals and we discuss the code of practice, ethics and even what awards to give.
Everyone agrees that diversity should be of paramount importance. But there is friction and disagreement too, which ultimately help the debate. World-renowned chefs such as Massimo Bottura, Daniel Humm, Yannick Alléno, Clare Smyth, Ana Roš, Alex Atala and Virgilio Martinez make their own contribution, even challenging the entire process. We split into three groups and talk and argue: should free meals at a restaurant count or would that mean that chefs are buying their way in? On the other hand, would jurors be able to afford all the necessary visits to fulfil their duties if they had to pay for them?
The aim of this series of talks and workshops is to ask a select number of jurors – 100, transparently announced – to collaborate in order to find the smartest and fairest method to identify, map and celebrate the talent behind unrecognised restaurants across the globe. By the evening, at Mauro Colegreco’s brasserie, we speak again with Warwick and Petrini, who admit they didn’t anticipate the level of confrontation – and they are very excited about it and the consequent work to be done.
The World Restaurants Awards will take place in Paris on 18th February 2019, and for the first time ever it will be broadcast on television in a format that Justin Clarke – managing culinary director for IMG – promises to be “a first-of-its-kind and star-studded awards programme”.
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina/Laura Denti
For further information about the World Restaurants Awards visit the website here.