For what reasons Ángel León and his restaurant aponiente Have they disappeared from The World’s 50 Best? list, some Spaniards asked us at the end of the gala held in London last Monday, July 18. He ranked 94th in 2019, rose to 79th in 2021 and when everything pointed to a brilliant rise, the damn podium has devoured him. It is true that it has received the award for the most sustainable restaurant in the world, well deserved, which despite everything sounded like a consolation to many of us. Aponiente and the monumental work of León deserve much more.
“To be trendy, you don’t just have to cook well, you have to stay campaigning throughout the year, go on tour, visit friends around the world, give hugs, speak English, share events, invite the press, invest money and let yourself be seen”, another of my friends who attended told me. “Even if it’s true, it’s not always like that,” I replied. “There you have the Basque grills, Etxbarri and Elkano two grill revolutionaries who, without meeting such requirements, occupy prominent positions, numbers 6 and 16. What was wrong? angel lion and what has he got right Dabiz Munoz, that has risen like foam?”
There is no lack of reason to think that the final balance, apart from the votes, is influenced by political and geostrategic interests of the organizers. That’s not counting the pressure from advertising brands, something that is being felt on many fronts, starting with sponsored prizes. And aside, the underground work of the communication agencies, which for a whole year pull strings behind the scenes and contribute to creating influences, elevating chefs or ruining their pretensions as a result of nefarious efforts.
From my perspective among the top 50 not only Leon was missing, but also many other talented Spanish chefs. “In Spain we could make a list of the top 50 with ourselves, he told me before the gala Andoni Aduriz, which after more than 12 years among the top 10 has dropped to 21st place. Whoever looks around the world will find hundreds of restaurants and chefs with more than enough merit that are not on the list and possibly never will be. From year to year, the list appears quite static, with changes coming slowly.
As usual, the podium has been cruel, erratic, strange, disconcerting and to a point boring. A pedestal that exalts and ignores, that ignites hopes and devours illusions at the same time.
Who make up the international juries? Of the total number of voters by country, 30% are chefs, another 30% journalists and 30% gourmets, or something like that. Professionals secretly appointed by the chairman who organizes the group in each country. He wants to say, it should not be forgotten, that chefs vote among themselves, for friendship, recognition and whatever seems good to them.
Strictly speaking, the results should be a direct consequence of the will of the voters. Is that really the case or is there something else? Those who claim that The World’s 50 Best lists are manipulated are perfectly right, but for their claims to be credible they have to prove it. Otherwise wet paper. It is true that the organizers have never revealed the number of votes accumulated by a certain restaurant, the same ones that lead it to occupy a certain position. And while Restaurant, the magazine that mounts the event maintains that policy of opacity, the observers will have every right to pose serious doubts.
“This is a jungle”, my friend repeated to me in the central hall of the old fish market Old Billingsgate, shortly before the event. The 40ºC outside in London had moved into a crowded space where the noise was superimposed on the crowds and suffocating heat. Everywhere, photographs, hugs, sincere smiles and greetings of commitment. The egos of many of those present turned into exercises in affability. Next to photocall the presence of some occasional snap hunters, ready to steal selfie to show off false friendships and quickly upload them to Instagram. Grotesque to see them and see them gesticulate. Nothing new, once again. In essence, a part of the media circus that accompanies this call and other similar ones every year.
What does The World’s 50 Best list value? What factors determine the results? Is it perhaps a hot list that measures trends as Ferran Adrià stated at the time? Was it and isn’t anymore? Maybe yes, maybe no. I admit my inability to assess the results. What reasons justify the presence of A Casa Do Porco (Sao Paulo, Brazil) at number 7 on the list, a restaurant that promotes pork dishes as a fetish speciality? Does it make sense to see it infiltrated next to haute cuisine restaurants? live to see The same nonsense that in 2009 had the presence of the London bar and restaurant St. Johnin advanced positions next to The Bulli of Adria. “You can be careful now. Casa Do Porco attack unstoppable” Rafa Zafra’s joker told Oriol Castro and David Muñoz with an ironic smile in the final break of the event.
As rare as the One to Watch Award, (to keep track), which has been awarded to Alexander Mazzia (Marseille), a consolidated restaurant with three stars in the Michelin Guide. A place to watch like a wannabe? Really? In this award, how much pressure is there from the sponsor, American Express? And in the rest of those awarded by different brands?
Let’s take stock. Spanish cuisine has lost part of the leadership that it once had on this list when our squad of chefs with El Bulli and later El Celler de Can Roca headed the top positions in the world. Even so, it maintains a magnificent position. No other country has managed to place 2 restaurants in the top five: Enjoy. number 3 (Barcelona) and DiverXO, number 4 (Madrid). Not three in the top 6 counting Etxebarri in that place. None. Furthermore, if we go through the list until we reach number 11, which occupies maid (Lima, Peru) we find that 7 restaurants among the top 11 (three Spanish and 4 Latin American) speak the same language. Once again and at the top of the world pyramid for The World 50 Best and haute cuisine predominantly works and expresses itself in Spanish.
I am not a friend of the lists, nor do I believe in the reliability of the results, but I closely follow their evolution. A sign of our times and of our society that loves all rankings no matter how hilarious they may be. Since last December I have enjoyed the food of the top 4 classified on the podium of The World’s 50 Best. Despite this, if someone asked me about my favorite, I would not be able to answer. I do not feel in a position to put in a single file the gastronomic pleasure that they have given me. Let’s be honest: there is no such thing as the best restaurant in the world, nor the best chef, nor the best song.
The race to The World’s 50 Best 2023 has started again. He will return with the usual media force and with the strategic movements of some chefs obsessed with rising to fame, however short-lived it may be.
Note. The photographs are of pure environment taken between openings and with especially unfavorable lights
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