The Hunger | Chefs in London for the World's 50 Best Restaurants list
— May 11, 2012 —
In this column, Ananda Pellerin and Neil Wissink uncover the secret pleasures of the gastronome
Apple Soup by Mauro Colagreco Photography Neil WissinkLast week the world's top chefs left their restaurants in the safe hands of their sous chefs and congregated at the Guildhall in London for the announcement of the World's 50 Best Restaurants 2012. Now in its tenth year, the list – which was started by industry magazine Restaurant, and is sponsored by San Pellegrino and Acqua Pann – rivals Michelin for its significance to chefs and diners alike.
Each year the list is decided by The World's 50 Best Restaurants Academy, comprised of 800 members including food critics, writers and chefs. Unlike Michelin, there are no specific criteria that restaurants have to meet to be included, although attention to seasonality and terroir are shared by most, if not all the entrants.
Massimo Bottura, whose Osteria Francescana in Modena just received its third Michelin star, and is number five on the list, is exhausted but effusive when we speak with him at the Mandarin Oriental, and recounts making post-event pasta (and gin and tonics) at Degò Wine Bar & Restaurant for a group of chefs at 3am. Bottura was also one of three chefs invited by Nuno Mendes, chef-patron of Viajante, to create collaborative menus at a 50 Best fringe event held throughout the week at the Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green. Mauro Colagreco, whose Mirazur on the French Riviera was listed at number 24, was another chef that joined Mendes, and their joint dinner menu was characterised by a balance of Colagreco's bright, fresh seafood and subtle vegetable dishes – including his signature green asparagus salad and sea tartare – and Mendes' richer meat dishes such as smoked bone marrow with beef broth and cod and tripe with onion and potatoes. "For us, placing 24th is amazing," Argentian-born Colagreco said of the awards. "Three years ago we were at number 35, so this was a real surprise." The type of collaboration that Mendes is encouraging amongst chefs – many of whom stayed at the Town Hall Hotel – captures the synergetic spirit of the Awards, which mirrors the new practice of chefs visiting each others' kitchens and sharing their experiences rather than closely guarding their techniques.
Andoni Aduriz, whose Mugaritz restaurant in Spain is third on the list, tells us that the awards event is a treasured opportunity for like-minded chefs to meet, talk and share their passion. "London is the most interesting place gastronomically speaking right now," he says when we meet him at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel. "Nothing like this has ever happened before. People used to hide their recipes from one another, now we all share. It's completely different."
Ananda Pellerin is a London-based writer and Neil Wissink is a visual artist also based in London. More from The Hunger here, and contact The Hunger here.