Is the World's 50 Best Restaurants List Scandalous?

Is the World's 50 Best Restaurants List Scandalous?

The much-anticipated annual list is out, but what's wrong with this picture?

By The Feast Staff

Year after year, the list of the World's 50 Best Restaurants is a sausage party. To be fair, this doesn't make it wildly different from most of the restaurant industry, in which executive chefs are still overwhelmingly male. But more and more exceptionally talented female chefs and restaurateurs are heading up top kitchens, not that you'd know that from looking at the 2016 World's 50 Best Restaurants List that just came out this week. The balance in the much-anticipated annual list is actually getting worse. 

The #1 honor this year goes to Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, run by brilliant chef Massimo Bottura (pictured below); it's the first time a restaurant in Italy has landed the top slot.

And NYC's deserving Estela is making news by grabbing a spot too, at number 44. But where were the women? Where were the non-whites—and, more specifically, the non-Europeans?

Osteria Francescana

Eater's Ryan Sutton breaks down this year's list, and demonstrates with charts and numbers how the gender representation is actually headed downward, with only two women this year compared to last year's three. San Francisco's double-Michelin-starred Dominique Crenn (pictured below), of Atelier Crenn and Petit Crenn, won the honor of Best Female Chef by the same organization, but her restaurant didn't make the top 50 list— and not even the longer top-100 version of the roster. The two women who made the cut, as Sutton shows in his analysis, co-own their restaurants with male business partners.

William Drew, editor of the list, explained the situation to Eater like this: "The industry gets more chefs on the list by promoting or encouraging female chefs to do their own thing, open up their own restaurants, head up the kitchens, and then if those restaurants are good enough, then they’ll get onto the list."

Leaving aside the incendiary "good enough" debate for the time begin—and the debate around why Michelin managed to find eight female-run restaurants worthy of stars in New York City while the 50 Best list only found two worldwide—where are most of Asia and Africa on this list? (The handful or restaurants that make the cut are run by European men.) The Middle East is nowhere to be found. All of those regions have some world-class restaurants, but the list mostly only honors them in its regional guides, not the worldwide edition. The list also shows something of a tone-deafness to current dining trends by massively favoring tasting-menu restaurants over ones that, like Estela, successfully straddle the line between elegant, innovative food and a more accessible atmosphere and price point.

But who doesn't love a list? Chances are, no matter how head-scratchingly tuned-out a Top Restaurants in the Galaxy roster might be, it's going to make some noise. The question, what kind of noise does this one deserve to make?


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