Some of the world’s top chefs and food writers convened in Paris for a workshop that officially launched the World Restaurant Awards which will be held for the first time on 18 February 2019.
The workshop was aimed to discuss the categories for the awards, the judging panel composition and the methodology and code of practice.
Among the chefs that were present in Paris on Monday 14 May for the launch of the Awards (originally the first awards were planned to be announced on the day) and who will form part of the judging panel where industry heavyweights Massimo Bottura, Dominique Crenn, Yannick Alleno, Elena Arzak, Daniel Humm, Clare Smyth, Alex Atala, Margot Janse, Virgilio Martinez, Rosio Sanchez, Corey Lee, Gert de Mangeleer and Manu Buffara to mention just a few names. Mauro Colagreco (who was in Argentina to celebrate his father’s 80th birthday), René Redzepi, David Chang and Esben Holmboe were not present for the workshop but be on the judging panel which is split between chefs and food journalists and writers and is also nearly equally split between male and female representatives.
The people behind the new World Restaurant Awards are Joe Warwick, the creative director and Andrea Petrini, the head of the judging panel backed by IMG, a communication company behind Taste of London and Taste of Paris among others which is responsible for the organisation of the event that will be televised live from the Hotel de Ville in Paris.
While the initial plan was to have 18 categories which ranged from Restaurant of the Year, New Restaurant of the Year, Event of the Year, Ethical Thinking, Far Flung Beauty, Enduring Classic, Travel Destination of the Year, Forward drinking, Innovator of the Year, New Michelin 3 Star of the year, the Restaurant World’s most influential as well as more thought provoking awards such as red wine serving restaurant of the year, stay at home chef of the year, instagram account of the year, trolley of the year, tattoo-free chef of the year and book of the year, the organisers have pledged to go back to the drawing board after interesting discussions on the categories during the workshop.
One of the key aspects of the World Restaurant Awards is transparency. All the members of the Judging Panel (including this writer) will be listed on the website with a biography for everyone to see. They will be tasked with coming up with a long list in each category which will finally make it to the final awards.
After the long list is created and published, a short list will be created and that short list will be physically assessed by members of the judging panel who will visit the restaurants in question in teams of two or three.
There were very interesting discussions throughout the workshop not only on the spoke and intended audience of the awards but also about whether chefs on the judging panel should be allowed to vote for restaurants (not their’s) who are also represented on the judging panel. Industry heavyweights like Massimo Bottura, Alex Atala and Daniel Humm took the floor to say it was important to put the spotlight on new talents and new places.
A discussion between Marie-Claude Lortie and Dominique Crenn put the focus on gender specific issues and also diversity and an interesting discussion followed about the need to cover the whole world, to add members to the Judging Panel from regions such as Africa, the Middle East and India and also whether or not to have quotas. Elena Arzak warned about the risk of ending with results that might end up being criticised for lack of women ‘because the reality is that there are considerably fewer women in the industry’. Dominique Crenn emphasised that the starting point needed to be education. “For me it is not about gender but what really matters is humanity. We have to educate people about being a human in the world.”
Daniel Patterson of Coi, San Francisco put things into context saying that in the US there are 13 million people working in restaurants but one third of restaurant workers are in poverty or are abused and sexually harassed. He said that awards may end up reinforcing cultural biases and therefore asked questions for which he said he had no answers such as how to measure refinement, how to have awards which are inclusive, how information about food and restaurants travel and how do we open different channels of communication. He also asked how do you assess a restaurant outside of your experience adding that there has never been an African restaurant that has really been well known despite the cuisines in these regions having influence in places from the United States to India, the Middle East and Europe.
The chosen charity for the award is The Perennial Farming Initiative.
The event ended with drinks and dinner at Grand Coeur, a restaurant operated by Mauro Colagreco.