New York Times

Eater New York
August 3, 2017
Eater New York
August 3, 2017

Eleven Madison Park Tops List of World’s 50 Best Restaurants


Eleven Madison Park, one of New York City’s top-rated restaurants, won another accolade on Wednesday: the No. 1 spot on the annual list compiled by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants organization.

The restaurant dethroned Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, which is now No. 2, followed by El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, which topped the list in 2013 and 2015. Read the complete list here.

American restaurants did well in the 2017 awards, announced in a ceremony at the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne, Australia. Six made the list, including Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, N.Y. (at No. 11); Le Bernardin in New York (17); Alinea in Chicago (21); Saison in San Francisco (37); and Cosme in New York (40). France and Spain also each had six restaurants on the list, which covers 22 countries.

There had been some buzz that Eleven Madison Park, which was No. 3 last year, might take the top spot, and both Will Guidara and the chef Daniel Humm, who are partners in the restaurant, flew to Australia for the ceremony.

But in a phone interview, Mr. Guidara said the win “was a total surprise.” He added that he wished that he and Mr. Humm were in New York. “We want to be home celebrating with the team,” he said.

The restaurant, where an eight-to-10-course tasting menu costs $295, including service, was awarded four stars by Pete Wells in a 2015 review in The New York Times. It plans to close in June for a renovation, and to reopen in September.

In his acceptance speech, Mr. Guidara said: “I don’t think any of us here do what we do for the accolades. But affirmation is a beautiful thing that fills your gas tank. It fuels you, and gives you the ability to keep pushing. And this, because it comes from everyone in here, this is the greatest affirmation of all.”

Previous first-place winners on the World’s 50 Best list have included Noma in Copenhagen, which was the top restaurant for four years (it closed in February but plans to reopen in a new location later this year), and El Bulli in Catalonia, Spain, which is now shuttered, before that.

The list — administered by the British company William Reed Business Media, which uses more than 1,000 judges around the world — has come under frequent criticism that it is riddled with favoritism and sexism. It has even inspired a brief protest movement called Occupy 50 Best.

But the top ranking is a gift that keeps on giving. It can make the name of the restaurant a household word. Reservations become coveted and scarce, and the chefs and restaurateurs bask in years of glory, even when the award passes to other establishments.

“It feeds on itself,” the New York restaurateur Drew Nieporent said. “It’s an important marketing tool for a restaurant, and it has popularized countries like Spain and Denmark that never got as much notice.”

Eric Ripert, the chef and an owner of Le Bernardin, said, “I like the idea of being on the list.” He was in Melbourne, where he said “there are chefs and journalists all over the place.” His restaurant has risen as high as 15th; it was 24th last year and is now 17th. “It creates awareness worldwide about Le Bernardin; you get tremendous global attention.”

This year’s list has some surprises. Two restaurants in Lima, Peru — Central and Maido — made the top 10. Blue Hill at Stone Barns leapt to No. 11 from No. 48 last year, winning an award for “highest climber.”

But that ascent was not as striking as that of Cosme, which was No. 96 last year. (The 50 Best awards include a second list, of restaurants ranked 51through 100.) Cosme is now No. 40, recognizing not only Enrique Olvera, its chef and founder, but also Daniela Soto-Innes, the chef de cuisine and a rare female chef on the list.

There can also be deep disappointments. The French Laundry, Thomas Keller’s flagship restaurant in Yountville, Calif., which reigned as No. 1 in 2003 and 2004, fell to No. 68 this year, still an improvement over last year’s plummet to 85. Once a restaurant is on the list, it’s likely to remain. Of the 100, there were only nine new ones this year.

Estela, the small but esteemed New York restaurant owned by Thomas Carter and the chef Ignacio Mattos, fell this year to No. 66 from 44 last year. But Mr. Carter said merely being on the list was enough. “It was mind-blowing to be recognized on the global stage” last year, he said.

Rules for the awards have been tightened in recent years, but many chefs, restaurateurs, journalists and observers still question the voting system. Judges are supposed to be anonymous, but in reality may not be, and they may accept free meals. The awards are supported by dozens of commercial sponsors.

The list has also undergone Oscar-worthy criticism that it is a showcase for mostly white male chefs. Last year, though the San Francisco chef Dominique Crenn was named best female chef, one of several ancillary awards, her restaurant, Atelier Crenn, was not on the list. This year it broke in at No. 83. The top female chef this year is Ana Ros of Hisa Franko in Kobarid, Slovenia. Her restaurant came in at 69.

And adding to New York’s recognition, the award for the world’s best pastry chef went to Dominique Ansel, the Cronut king.