Sao Paulo, Hong Kong, Lima, and Singapore are a few of the non-European cities that have entrant in the top 50, but the Euro-centric list could learn a few things from rival Michelin's focus, as well as fellow upstart The Miele Guide.
The awards for Restaurant magazine, sponsored by San Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, are selected in a vote by food writers, chefs and gourmets. El Celler, run by three brothers north of Barcelona, spent two years in second place behind Copenhagen’s Noma, which now ranks second.
“The Roca brothers’ restaurant has gained global acclaim for its combination of Catalan dishes and cutting-edge techniques and the passion that they share for hospitality,” the award organizers said in an e-mailed release.
Osteria Francescana, chef Massimo Bottura’s modern Italian restaurant in Modena, rises to third. Mugaritz, in San Sebastian, Spain, slips to fourth. Eleven Madison Park, New York, jumps five places to fifth.
The rankings are compiled by aggregating the votes of 26 regional panels, consisting of a chairman or chairwoman and 35 other people. (I head the U.K. and Ireland panel.) Each member picks seven restaurants, including at least three from outside his or her region, for a total of 936 votes worldwide.
“El Celler believes in free-style cooking, with a commitment to the avant-garde, but remaining faithful to the memory of different generations on the family’s ancestors,” the release said. “Joan heads up the kitchen, Jordi is head pastry chef and Josep is head sommelier, in charge of front of house.”
The brothers’ passion for food began in Can Roca, the bar their parents managed in Taiala, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Girona, according to El Celler’s website. Joan and Josep opened El Celler next door in 1986 before Joan spent a season with Ferran Adria at El Bulli in 1989.
El Celler won its first Michelin star in 1995, its second in 2002 and the third in 2009. Among the dishes that have made it famous is Iberian suckling pig with pepper sauce and garlic and quince terrine. The tasting menu costs 130 euros ($170).
If you want to go, act fast: Rene Redzepi of Noma says that the day after his restaurant won the award, 100,000 people tried to book online, enough to fill Noma for years.
The World’s 50 Best results are often controversial and this year’s list will do nothing to enhance their reputation in France. The highest French entry is Alain Passard’s Paris restaurant, L’Arpege, at 16th. Most of France’s grand gastronomic establishments don’t make the list at all.
Passard and Joel Robuchon were the only chefs in the Top 50 who didn’t attend. Others came from as far afield as Australia, Japan, Mexico and Peru. Alain Ducasse, who won for lifetime achievement, sent his thanks in a video message.
The chefs attended after-parties late into the night. Blumenthal, William Humm, Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud and the Roca brothers were among those in the basement bar at Roka. Across town, Redzepi and fellow Nordic chef Magnus Nilsson were at Clove Club, along with Bottura, who was dancing.
In the U.S. Per Se was at 11th was followed by Alinea (15th), Le Bernardin (19th), Daniel (29th) and French Laundry (47th).
In the U.K., the Ledbury was 13th, the Fat Duck 33rd, Viajante 59th, Hedone 70th, St. John 71st and Pollen Street Social 84th.
The awards started in 2002 as a feature in Restaurant magazine. Ex-editor Joe Warwick said he sent e-mails to chefs and journalists to pick their favorite places. U.K. venues did well: Gordon Ramsay was second and the Ivy eighth. El Bulli won.
The awards have grown into the biggest annual gathering of chefs from around the world. While the culinary masters are in London, they take part in other events.
The Roca brothers hosted a breakfast at the Mandarin Oriental to announce a culinary opera — El Somni — which they are creating with the video artist Franc Aleu as well as musicians, painters, dancers and other artists.
There will be 12 acts, in which 12 diners will eat 12 courses. The premiere is in Barcelona next month, when the guests will include the chef Ferran Adria as well as Harold McGee, the American author whose writings on the science of food have inspired Heston Blumenthal and other chefs.
Previous winners are: El Bulli (2002, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009); French Laundry (2003, 2004); Fat Duck (2005); and Noma (2010, 2011, 2012).
|1||El Celler de Can Roca||Girona, Spain||Up 1|
|2||Noma||Copenhagen, Denmark||Down 1|
|3||Osteria Francescana||Modena, Italy||Up 2|
|4||Mugaritz||San Sebastian, Spain||Down 1|
|5||Eleven Madison Park||New York||Up 5|
|6||D.O.M.||Sao Paulo, Brazil||Down 2|
|7||Dinner by Heston Blumenthal||London||Up 2|
|8||Arzak||San Sebastian, Spain||Unchanged|
|10||Vendome||Bergisch Gladbach, Germany||Up 13|
|11||Per Se||New York||Down 5|
|13||The Ledbury||London||Up 1|
|14||Astrid y Gaston||Lima||Up 21|
|17||Pujol||Mexico City||Up 19|
|18||Le Chateaubriand||Paris||Down 3|
|19||Le Bernardin||New York||Up 1|
|22||Nihonryori RyuGin||Tokyo||Up 6|
|23||L’Astrance, Paris, down 5||Paris||Down 6|
|24||L’Atelier Saint-Germain de Joel Robuchon||Paris||Down 12|
|25||Hof Van Cleve||Kruishoutem, Belgium||Up 17|
|26||Quique Dacosta||Denia, Spain||Up 14|
|27||Le Calandre Rubano, Italy, up 5||Rubano, Italy||up 5|
|28||Mirazur||Menton, France||Down 4|
|29||Daniel||New York||Down 4|
|30||Aqua Wolfsburg||Germany||Down 8|
|31||Biko||Mexico City||Up 7|
|33||Fat Duck||Bray, U.K.||Down 20|
|35||Oud Sluis||Sluis, Netherlands||Down 14|
|36||Amber||Hong Kong||Up 8|
|37||Vila Joya||Albufeira, Portugal||Up 8|
|38||Restaurant Andre||Sinapore||New entry|
|39||8 1/2 Otto E Mezzo Bombana||Hong Kong||New entry|
|40||Combal Zero||Rivoli, Italy||Re-entry|
|41||Piazza Duomo||Alba, Italy||New entry|
|42||Schloss Schauenstein||Furstenau, Switzerland||Down 12|
|43||Mr & Mrs Bund||Shanghai||New entry|
|44||Asador Etxebarri||Atxondo, Spain||Down 13|
|46||Mani||Sao Paulo||New entry|
|47||The French Laundry||Yountville, U.S.||Down 4|
|52||Manresa||Los Gatos, U.S.|
|53||Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francais||Franschhoek, S. Africa|
|54||La Grenouillere||La Madelaine sous Montreuil, France|
|57||De Librije||Zwolle, Netherlands|
|60||Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet||Shanghai|
|61||The Test Kitchen||Cape Town|
|62||La Vie||Osnabruck, Germay|
|63||Blue Hill at Stone Barns||Westchester, U.S.|
|64||Martin Berasategui||Lasarte-Oria, Spain|
|72||In De Wulf||Dranouter, Belgium|
|74||Dal Pescatore||Canneto sull’Oglio, Italy|
|75||Lung King Heen||Hong Kong|
|78||Hertog Jan||Bruges, Belgium|
|79||Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athenee||Paris|
|80||Roberta Sudbrack||Rio de Janeiro|
|83||Die Schwarzwaldstube||Baiersbronn, Germany|
|84||Pollen Street Social||London|
|86||Momofuku Ssam Bar||New York|
|88||Hotel de Ville||Crissier, Switzerland|
|90||Bo Innovation||Hong Kong|
|92||La Petite Maison||Dubai|
|93||Momofuku Ko||New York|
|94||La Maison Troisgros||Roanne, France|
|96||Le Louis XV||Monte Carlo|
|98||Jean Georges||New York|
Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. He is U.K. and Ireland chairman of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Opinions expressed are his own.
Muse highlights include Hephzibah Anderson on books; and Greg Evans and Craig Seligman on film.
Editors: Mark Beech and Farah Nayeri.
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Photo credit: Signage outside of El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain. E. Calamar / Flickr