Is French magazine Le Chef right to challenge World’s 50 Best list?

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 2nd February 2015
It is fair to say that the French are world renowned for their fine-dining so when Restaurant Magazine included only five French restaurants in its 2014 ‘World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ it’s no surprise that across the Channel the French had something to say about it.
Le Chef magazine’s top 10 world’s chefs and restaurants 1. Pierre Gagnaire, Restaurant Pierre Gagnaire, Paris, France 2. Paul Bocuse, L’Auberge du pont de Collonges, Collonges au Mont d’Or, France 3. Joan Roca, El Celler de Can Roca, Girona, Spain 4. Thomas Keller, Per Se, New York, US 5. Alain Ducasse, Louis XV, Monaco 6. Michel Bras, Le Suquet, Laguiole, France 7. Eric Fréchon, Epicure, Paris, France 8. Yannick Alléno, Ledoyen, Paris, France 9. Seiji Yamamoto, Nihonryori RyuGin, Tokyo, Japan 10. Daniel Humm, Eleven Madison Park, New York, US. Restaurant magazine’s 'World’s Best 50 restaurants' top 10 2014 1. Noma, Copenhagen, Denmark 2. El Celler de Can Roca, Girona, Spain 3. Osteria Francescana, Modena, Italy 4. Eleven Madison Park, New York, US 5. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London, UK 6. Mugaritz, San Sebastian, Spain 7. DOM, Sao Paulo, Brazil 8. Arzak, San Sebastian, Spain 9. Alinea, Chicago, US 10. The Ledbury, London, UK.
In response to the list and over a decade of low ranking restaurants, Le Chef, a French magazine for foodies, bit back last week. Le Chef compiled its own list of the top 100 chefs and restaurants, the magazine polled over 500 two-to-three Michelin starred chefs around the world and asked them each to provide five names of chefs they thought represented the best of the cooking profession and which chefs and restaurants they would like to see on a list of the 100 best in the world. Five of the top ten were French, including Pierre Gagnaire and Paul Bocuse. Paul Bocuse - credit to Bocuse Le Chef editor, Francis Luzin, stated on the magazine’s website: “The fifty-best is a ranking of “so-called” best restaurants in the world… It thus gives pride of place to small countries with few (Michelin) star restaurants. French gastronomy (is) poorly represented in this ranking.” The lists suggests that both magazines have their own objectives, but does this mean that British and French food rivalries are rife as more and more people try new flavours further afield? Michel Roux Jr. explained that this rivalry is nothing new, he said: Michel Roux Jnr (17)“The friction between the French and the English has been lasting for the last 500 years. The French and English are always having a go at each other. On the culinary front, as a chef, all of these lists and points of view are good because they get people talking and comparing. It’s good for business and it’s good for awareness of our industry, and if there’s a little bit of friction in there, that’s good too." He added: “Le Chef’s is an interesting list, because they are predominantly French chefs but there are some foreign ones in there as well. The polling was done solely by chefs, whereas for Restaurant Magazine the polling was journalists and food critics from far and wide, with countries that do not have the Michelin guide. You can’t really compare one against the other.” As a Michelin starred chef himself and an influential part of The Roux Scholarship competition, Michel Jr. is proud to be French and sees it as key to Le Gavroche's success. xavier1"If you look at the illustrious list of previous winners of the Roux Scholarship," explained Michel Jr. "They are stars in the making and stars that are already there. People like Sat Baines and Andrew Fairlie. They’re up there with the best. It’s magnificent to see a completion like the Roux Scholarship in its 32nd year now and still old true to its beliefs and encouraging young chefs to achieve their goals. "I think there are plenty of young people entering into our industry now which is great, but we need more training facilities and mentors, and more professionals like the winners of the Roux scholarship to help out young chefs." He added: "You’ll always have some chefs that will be insular and will not look at other cultures and cuisines. Le Gavroche is proud to be French and proud of our roots, and we continue to be French and I think that is part of our success. However, some people have traveled and have come back with influences. It’s a small world, we can travel now, and we can pick up influences from all over the world, but none more so than in England. The British are used to travelling and are adventurous, and that’s wonderful. It’s a great big melting pot, if you pardon the pun.” Xavier Boyer, executive head chef at London L’Atelier, and originally from the south of France, believes that ranking restaurants on a worldwide scale is impractical and said: “You can’t have a listing of worldwide restaurants; it has to be very specific. For example, the 50 best restaurants in Tokyo are made around the Japanese pallet. A restaurant that is famous in the South of France will probably not be famous in London because the flavours are different.” Xavier celebrates cultural differences in cuisine, and said: “You have to open restaurants where you think you will find the product and the pallet of the customers most adapted to your cuisine.” He explained that restaurants featuring on the ‘50 Best’ list have always been there but since the creation of the list people have become more aware of them. He said: “They just didn’t have the recognition and the appreciation before. Now everybody is talking about restaurants all around the world, not just French, and that’s good for everybody.” 50best_cara_2014 William Drew, editor of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, reitterated that 'it is a truly international organisation', with almost 1,000 voters spread across the world (and not 10 per country, as was incorrectly reported, but 36 in every voting region, some of which are made up of one country, others by a number of countries). He explained: “The idea that these two lists of great restaurants represent some kind of national battle – with the French pitched against the British – is alien to us. "We have no inherent British bias, nor any bias towards any other country – least of all France, which is recognised as home to many superb restaurants and the cradle of much culinary development. Indeed in 2014 there were just three UK restaurants featured in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, as opposed to five in France. Over our list’s 12-year history, more restaurants from France have appeared than any other country – and more French chefs have featured than any other nationality, by some distance." He added: "Le Chef is more than entitled to produce its own list of restaurants, based on a different pool of voters. These lists are based on the tastes and experiences of individuals and are therefore inherently subjective, but we believe The World’s 50 Best Restaurants has proved itself to be a credible indicator of the best places to eat around the world and a successful platform for the celebration of great restaurants and great chefs.” By Molly Mileham-Chappell What do you think? Are the French being intentionally pushed out of the list or is it just a case that other countries have upped their game? Join the debate by commenting below or got to our Facebook page or tweet us.
The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 2nd February 2015

Is French magazine Le Chef right to challenge World’s 50 Best list?