On winning the World’s 50 Best Restaurants sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna for a second time, chef Massimo Bottura made a promise to the chefs, foodies and food media assembled at the Euskalduna Palace in Bilbao: “I’m not going to disappoint you. I’m going to use the spotlight to show that chefs are much more than the sum of our recipes.”
It was a tense battle between three of Europe's most revered restaurants for the top spot: Bottura’s Osteria Francescana, which took the title back in 2016, El Celler de Can Roca in Girona (a two time winner) and chef Mauro Colagreco’s Mirazur, which jumped a place from fourth. Predictions beforehand had been wildly varying, with some opting for one of the eventual top three, while the likes of Gaggan, Central and Asador Etxebarri were also muted. However, as soon as last year’s winner Eleven Madison Park was revealed as having slipped down to number four, and the name of El Celler de Can Roca was read out at number two, everyone knew it was Bottura’s year again.
“We’re a better restaurant than we were two years ago,” said Bottura of Osteria Francescana. “The team is stronger, we’re more mature, and we’re evolving in a happy way, but also in a savvy way – together. Without Osteria Francescana I couldn’t do the things that I’m doing,” he continued, referring to his myriad social gastronomy projects, including his now world famous Food for Soul initiative.
Bottura thanked his team, alongside wife Lara Gilmore, on receiving the award, urging everyone in the room to “dream big,” in true Bottura style.
Movers and Shakers
The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list saw a number of new entries this year.
London’s Lyle’s, fronted by chef James Lowe, got a huge cheer when it was announced as having broke the top 50 at number 38, while Oslo’s Maeemo landed at number 33, like it had always been there. Chef Ana Roš’ Hiša Franko debuted at number 48, Mikla in Istanbul at number 45, the only Turkish restaurant on the list, and Singapore’s Odette at number 28. The rise of Disfrutar in Barcelona continues: having won the One to Watch award last year, it debuted on the list at number 18, making it the highest new entry.
Rejoining the list this year were Bangkok’s Nahm (number 49), which has just been taken over by chef Pim Techamuanvivit after David Thompson’s departure, and Andreas Caminda’s Schloss Schaunenstein in Switzerland, at number 47.
Zaiyu Hasegawa's Den, in Tokyo, continued its impressive ascendency, having shot up to number two on the recent Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list, by jumping 28 places to number 17 on the World's, making it this year's highest climber.
Three awards had already been announced ahead of the ceremony: The Miele One to Watch, which was given to California’s SingleThread, The Diners Club® Lifetime Achievement, awarded to Gastón Acurio, who used his speech to spread a message of togetherness – “Cooking unites humankind. Only good things happen when we celebrate our differences,” he said – and elit Vodka World’s Best Female Chef, Clare Smyth. Smyth chose to address the controversy surrounding the award, urging the culinary community to “encourage people from all backgrounds,” and to “be more tolerant, supportive and kind.”
Elsewhere, Cèdric Grolet, who’s famous for his faux fruit creations, picked up the World’s Best Pastry Chef Award, the Chef’s Choice Award, voted for by chefs, went to Dan Barber, who’s restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns came in at number 12 on the list, The Art of Hospitality Award went to Copenhagen’s Geranium (number 19), and the Basque Country’s Azurmendi (number 43) picked up the Sustainable Restaurant Award.
The evening kicked off with a somber tribute to three recently departed chefs, namely Anthony Bourdain, Italian maestro Gualtiero Marchesi and the legendary Paul Bocuse. The tribute brought huge rounds of applause and any people to their feet.