Arguably more powerful than the Michelin star system and more argued than a World Cup Final, the ‘World’s 50 Best’ Restaurants List Awards are coming to Australia.
The prestigious event – sometimes called the Oscars of Fine Dining is on its way to Melbourne in 2017 as the next chapter in Tourism Australia’s Restaurant Australia initiative.
Announced in New York, this week the highly anticipated awards are more than just a pat on the back for the world’s finest chefs. They are a snapshot of the greatest gastronomic experiences across the globe and create a lot of buzz when revealed.
The annual awards are based on the votes of The Diners Club ‘World’s 50 Best’ Restaurants Academy, an influential group of almost 1,000 international reviewers, journalists and chefs. Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana took out the 2016 top honour – a first for Italy.
Known as the ‘Jimi Hendrix of food’ and the author of “Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef’, Bottura’s style has been met with controversy in his homeland. The three-Michelin starred Bottura whilst admired for many years around the globe, faced a media storm doubting the ‘Italian’ authenticity of his menu.
He has since mounted campaigns to aid those affected by the catastrophic earthquake that ravaged the Emilia-Romagna region when it lost a third of it’s annual Parmigiano Reggiano threatening businesses and jobs. He also created the Refettoria Ambrosiana to feed the hungry and address food wastage.
Since the start of the Restaurant Australia campaign in 2013, world recognition of Australia’s dining scene has led to international visitors increasing their food and wine spend by more than $1 billion, double the original two-year spending target.
Tourism Australia’s much acclaimed 2014 ‘Invite the World to Dinner’ also helped changed perceptions about Australia’s produce, wine and restaurants. Celebrated chefs such as Rene Redzepi, Heston Blumenthal, David Chang and Eric Ripert have all sung the praises of Australia’s food scene to anyone who’ll listen.
Rene Redzepi transplanted Copenhagen’s Noma (a former World No 1 on the list) to Sydney for a 10-week stint. He said when the pop-up closed that he would miss “standing at the pass and an Australian walks by and puts two thumbs up in the air and says, ‘Thank you – it’s amazing. That just doesn’t happen in Denmark. I cannot say that I’ve ever been to a place where I’ve felt this welcome. Even back home”.
Heston Blumenthal – said of Australia, “Anything goes, and that’s an essential factor of the country’s culture. It’s this relaxed approach to food that has helped ignite what I regard as the world’s biggest food explosion”.
Recent years have seen Australia strongly represented on the list with restaurants Attica now at number 33, Brae at 65, and Quay at number 98 on the full 100 World’s Best. Over the list’s 14-year history, Rockpool, Marque, Tetsuya’s and Momofuku Seiobo have also featured. Indeed, Aussie expat chefs like Brett Graham cracked the top 20 with London’s The Ledbury and David Thompson’s Nahm Bangkok made number 37.
To celebrate Melbourne as host in 2017, Tourism Australia flew four of the country’s best chefs to New York to give the assembled who’s who of fine dining a taste of what to expect Down Under next year. Attica’s Ben Shewry, Quay’s Peter Gilmore, Dan Hunter from Brae and Rockpool’s Neil Perry cooked the ultimate Aussie BBQ Brunch on the rooftop of Manhattan’s NoMad Hotel.
Wine Australia matched the feast with celebrated drops including Jansz Premium Cuvée (Tasmania), Leeuwin Estate ‘Art Series’ Chardonnay (Margaret River, WA) and Cirillo ‘The Vincent’ Grenache (Barossa Valley, SA).
The World’s 50 Best acknowledges Australia as more than just (pardon the pun) the flavour of the month. It is an enormous opportunity for Melbourne and Australia to showcase our remarkable and sustainable produce, wine and understanding of food and to the world.