Roger Federer has won 20 grand slams, Rafael Nadal 18. On the other hand Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray have only managed three each. But they’ve all been told to go into a hall of fame never to compete in a Grand Slam title again. Of course that’s not the case.
Liverpool, the winners of the Champions League this year are also eliminated from next year’s champions league and so are the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Juventus. Their only problem is they’ve won the cup before. It is also imaginary.
But this is the conundrum that the World’s 50 Best restaurants finds itself in. As from this evening, the winner of the World’s 50 Best, a newcomer unless it is René Redzepi’s Noma who is eligible because he opened noma 2.0 in a new location after having closed down in the first will no longer be eligible to compete in the following year. Instead they will enter a hall of fame or a ‘best of the best’.
There have been seven in total who have won the top accolade since the list was started. Top of them was El Bulli with five ‘grand slams’ followed by Noma (4), Osteria Francescana, El Celler de Can Roca and the French Laundry (2) and Fat Duck and Eleven Madison Park (1).
Of these, three restaurants (Osteria Francescana, El Celler de Can Roca and Eleven Madison Park are still at the forefront of the gastronomy scene.
This evening, however, someone else will take the number one spot. And then, they will also become ineligible to compete. They are kicked out into the hall of fame, the best of best, to make space for someone new.
It is a disservice to followers of this list and it is also a disservice to young upcoming and ambitious chefs who want to leave a mark on the culinary world.
They will never be able to become legendary under the new system. An avant-garde restaurant that is so ahead of its time, that merits to dominate a decade will be no more. Instead, the winners will have the comfort of entering the hall of fame. They will no longer need to push the boundaries, to test their creativity. They can of course still do it and many will. But without any skin in the game, the magic is lost.
In a few year’s time we will look back at this as a seminal moment when the star of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants waned. The list grew powerful, some say too powerful and for this reason it has been put in place by the ‘senators’. This moment will be pivotal. Something else might yet emerge to take over from the waning star. But for the time being, it is time to crack open the champagne bottles for this year’s winners. When the dust settles and the bubbles stop fizzing, this year’s winner might wonder whether it was all worth it.