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World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards in Singapore: everything you need to know

To be held on 25 June, the World's 50 Best Restaurants awards celebrates the best in the culinary world. What does it mean for Singapore?

Update: the results for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants are now live. Read the story here

 

For 16 years now, the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants (W50B) has been massively influential in defining haute cuisine. It’s the Oscars of the culinary world, an industry-voted list that acts as a barometer for dining trends all over the globe. Sure, the system is not without its controversies — that it’s too eurocentric, that there’s not enough female representation, that it’s unreliable — but there is no denying the influence of the list.

Just as you shouldn’t rely on the Oscars as a guide to what movies to watch, the W50B list, too, isn’t a dining guide. It’s a celebration of the culinary zeitgeist, and the people defining it.

The early years of the list between 2002 and 2009 saw restaurants like elBulli and The Fat Duck dominating the top spots. Those too, were the same years where the spheres and hydrocolloids of “molecular gastronomy” exploded onto every menu. Cue the next decade, when Copenhagen “New Nordic” restaurant Noma took the first place for three years running, prompting an epidemic of foraging,  fermentation, and wild game in every progressive-aspiring restaurant.

(Related: Events to attend for World’s 50 Best Restaurants in Singapore)

Many of these places close down, but some move on to their own, justified greatness. The techniques and ideas that the winners create spread, to the point where you don’t have to dine at W50B-listed restaurants to feel their effects.  Everyone eats — it does not matter whether you can afford weekly $700 meals with a wine pairing.

Ferran Adria of elBulli

Ferran Adria of elBulli

Chefs like Ferran Adria (of elBulli) and Heston Blumenthal (of The Fat Duck) paved the way for a more empirical, technology-driven style of cooking that dispelled culinary myths, and bloomed dozens of new techniques. Meanwhile, Rene Redzepi (of Noma) opened up a whole new world of discourse on sustainability and locavorism, breaking the hegemony on what was traditionally considered “fine” ingredients — suddenly everyone was looking in their own backyards for culinary gold.

In the business of dining

Stakeholders for these events come in at every level. High-end German appliance manufacturer Miele has been involved as a sponsor for the event since 2018’s Asia’s 50 Best awards, and sees it as an opportunity for discourse.

Says Dr. Axel Kniehl, executive director of marketing and sales with Miele: “What makes The World’s 50 Best Awards celebration so interesting for us … it brings together the best chefs in the world, promoting an exchange of ideas in the global fine-dining community. Miele customers benefit from fresh inspiration for new recipes and corresponding programmes for the appliances.”

This year, the award ceremony is coming to Singapore — its first time in Asia. There are many other firsts too. There’s now an even 50/50 gender split on the voting panel, while previous first-place winners will be put on a separate Best of the Best group, to allow for a “broader field of restaurants and chefs to step onto the global stage”, shares William Drew, director of content for W50B.

Massimo Bottura

Massimo Bottura, whose restaurant Osteria Francescana topped the list in 2016 and 2018

Of course, awards and events like these are businesses (including others like the Michelin guide), and don’t usually sprout up in countries on their own accord. The W50B held its first 13 award shows in London (the home of William Reed Business Media, which created the list) before moving the show on the road — New York in 2016, Melbourne in 2017, and Bilbao in 2018.

Tourism boards are usually closely involved, as is the case with Tourism Australia, which spun the 2017 W50B ceremony into a multi-million dollar marketing campaign that promoted the country as a dining destination. According to an article by Business Insider article, food and wine spending by tourists in Australia came in at AUD$5.8 billion (SGD$5.4 billion at that point of time) that same year; while Marketing Mag reported an audience reach of 4.4 billion, with AUD$46 million in equivalent advertising value.

The impacts of holding the awards in Singapore

For Singapore, things will be happening on an even bigger scale. The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has signed an unprecedented three-year partnership with William Reed Business Media (WRBM), which will further see held here Asia’s 50 Best Bars awards, and #50BestTalks in 2020; and The World’s 50 Best Bars awards in 2021.

“WRBM has been very successful in attracting international media attention with its World and Asia editions of 50 Best restaurants and bars. This has benefited many of the restaurants and bars that are featured in the lists.” Shares Ranita Sundra, Director, Retail and Dining, STB.

(Related: Fluffy pancakes: Where to get souffle pancakes in Singapore)

Singapore has the chops to back up all that potential publicity too. Internationally-awarded restaurants, a diverse cultural mix of cuisines, and sprawling hawker centres draw their fair share of jet-setting eaters and hungry travellers. In 2018 alone, tourists spent US$2.2 billion (SGD$2.86 billion) on dining.

Drew says: “In Singapore, we identified the perfect host city. It remains a cultural and commercial hub for the region, it’s a hotbed of great food and drink, it mixes diverse cuisines from fine dining to hawker stalls, it has a great infrastructure and is a destination the food community is keen to visit.”

If it’s any indicator of the effectiveness of these things: the emergence of best-of lists like the World and Asia’s 50 Best and the Michelin guide in Singapore has been packing in the restaurants.

Odette (Singapore)

Odette, Singapore

Odette, which recently took the top spot on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list, now has a months-long waitlist for a table. Chef-owner Julien Royer revealed that guests started getting much more international after they climbed to no.5 in 2018, with an almost 50-50 split between locals and visitors to Singapore.

Royer opines: “I have always said that [Singapore] is like the crossroads of the world and an inspiring place to be a chef. W50Best helps to elevate this by showcasing the culinary talent here on a global stage. I think it gives the next generation of chefs in Asia exciting things and opportunities to work towards.”

Meanwhile, Stefano Marini, CEO of longtime-W50B sponsor Sanpellegrino shares that the “cross-continent exchange among chefs from all around the world…will spark new conversations and ideas on food, causing a positive domino effect of culinary progression — motivating restaurateurs, and chefs to push themselves in innovation when they realize that opportunities globally are more available and accessible than ever before.”

San Pellegrino is also the organizer of the S.Pellegrino Young Chef, which promotes culinary talent both regionally and globally — selected finalists for the 2020 Grand Finale include five chefs from Singapore. 

Showing off Singapore’s foodscape

Like the Olympics, the W50B is a great way for its host city to show off — almost everyone who is someone in the restaurant world will be gathered in the city for the period, exploring, tasting, and talking about all their experiences. Dave Pynt, chef-owner of Burnt Ends (no. 59 on the list this year) explains, “all the different traditions, every level of local food, from the hawker centres to the fine dining restaurants will be showcased. Everything is going to be eaten this weekend…Things are going to be f***ing busy, but it’s going to be interesting. This will help re-affirm Singapore’s position in the food world.”

Burnt Ends is known for its barbecue-focused menu

The awards ceremony itself is something to behold if you’re even just somewhat invested in the world of gastronomy — many of the greatest names in the culinary world all gathered in one place. It’s almost like a cast reunion of Chef’s Table, except with partying. And chefs know how to party.

(Related: Chef Jake Kellie of Burnt Ends: a talent to watch)

For now, the placements for no. 51 – 120 (an additional 20 spaces have been added from last year to celebrate major sponsor San Pellegrino’s 120th anniversary) have been announced — barbecue-focused Australian restaurant Burnt Ends climbed two spaces from no. 61 last year; and is the only Singaporean eatery to appear so far. 

No. 51 – 120 on the list:

  1. Reale – Castel del Sangro, Italy
  2. Mikla – Istanbul, Turkey
  3. Arzak – San Sebastian, Spain
  4. D.O.M. – Sao Paolo, Brazil
  5. Maeemo – Oslo, Norway
  6. Relae – Copenhagen, Denmark
  7. Nobelhart and Schmutzig – Berlin
  8. Sud 777 – Mexico City
  9. Burnt Ends – Singapore
  10. Indian Accent – New Delhi, India
  11. Uliassi – Senigallia, Italy
  12. Nihonryori RyuGin – Tokyo, Japan
  13. Florilege – Tokyo, Japan
  14. The Ledbury – London, UK
  15. Selfie – Moscow, Russia
  16. Core by Clare Smyth – London, UK
  17. Astrid y Gaston – Lima, Peru
  18. Faviken – Jarpen, Sweden
  19. Nahm – Bangkok, Thailand
  20. Saison – San Francisco, USA
  21. SingleThread – Healdsburg, USA
  22. Aqua – Wolsfburg, Germany
  23. Mani – Sao Paolo, Brazil
  24. Lasai – Rio de Janiero, Brazil
  25. DiverXo – Madrid, Spain
  26. Momofuku Ko – New York, USA
  27. Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare – New York, USA
  28. Lido 84 – Gardone, Riviera, Italy (Miele One To Watch)
  29. Mingles – Seoul, Korea
  30. Estela – New York, USA
  31. Quique Dacosta – Denia, Spain
  32. Engima – Barcelona, Spain
  33. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal – London, UK
  34. Attica – Melbourne, Australia
  35. Amass – Copenhagen, Denmark
  36. Tegui – Buenos Aires, Argentina
  37. Martin Berasategui – Lasate-Oria, Spain
  38. Lun King Heen – Hong Kong, China
  39. 108 – Copenhagen, Denmark
  40. Alo – Toronto, Canada
  41. Sushi Saito – Tokyo, Japan
  42. Harvest – St. Petersburg, Russia
  43. La Cime – Osaka, Japan
  44. Aponiente – El Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain
  45. Gaa – Bangkok, Thailand
  46. Belon – Hong Kong, China
  47. Vendome – Bergisch Gladbach, Germany
  48. Anne-Sophie Pic – Valence, France
  49. The Jane – Antwerp, Belgium
  50. Oteque – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  51. Brae – Birregurra, Australia
  52. Amber – Hong Kong, Chian
  53. Jade Dragon – Macau, China
  54. Cococo – St. Petersburg, Russia
  55. Kadeau – Copenhagen, Denmark
  56. Restaurant David Toutain – Paris, France
  57. Il Ristorante Luca Fantin – Tokyo, Japan
  58. L’Astrance – Paris, France
  59. Alcalde – Guadalajara, Mexico
  60. Neolokal – Istanbul, Turkey
  61. Chambre Separee – Ghent, Belgium
  62. St. John – London, UK
  63. Vea – Hong Kong, China
  64. La Colombe – Cape Town, South Africa
  65. Per Se – New York, USA
  66. St. Hubertus – San Cassiano, Italy
  67. Epicure – Paris, France
  68. Ernst – Berlin, Germany
  69. Atomix – New York, USA
  70. Sugalabo – Tokyo, Japan