In the wake of the World's 50 Best announcement, William Drew — the editor of Restaurant magazine, which oversees the awards — has addressed common criticisms of the list in an interview with Atabulua (in French). "Those who criticize us do not come to us and don't really want to know what we do," Drew says. "We consider that we are a positive force in the restaurant universe."
Drew defends the voting system of the World's 50 Best list, which is created by tallying some 6,500 votes from jurors around the world. A common criticism of the voting procedure is that jurors vote on restaurants they didn't actually visit. Restaurant critic Steve Cuozzo, a notable skeptic of the list, summed up that argument well in a 2011 New York Post story: "So, too, must David Chang be sweating the lowly No. 65 position of his Momofuku Ko, a ranking that raises the question of whether any voters ate there: To achieve even that ranking would require the judges to have taken up all of the joint's 12 stools for months on end." Drew says the organization "trust[s] our jurors."
Non-believers also criticize the "freebies" and the PR machine that restaurants employ to woo voters. Last year, Michelin-starred Spanish chef Martín Berasategui demanded that voters "Show me the receipts from the restaurants they have eaten in" and called the list "rigged." Not so, Drew suggests:
"We trust our jurors. We also ask them the date of their visit to the restaurants so we also have the possibility to verify that they indeed went. And when we think it is necessary, we do. Of course, there are lobbies, the pressure of marketing, press officers, but even when we are invited to a restaurant as a journalist and sprayed with champagne, we are still able to discern the best. This is not a few glasses of champagne buying a vote."
In his recent take down of the stereotypical World's 50 Best restaurant qualities, British critic Giles Coren suggests that the list favors a specific kind of restaurant. Drew explains that that too is a misapprehension:
"There are no criteria. The 936 jurors must report their seven best experiences in a restaurant. There is no pre-established list, scale, or predetermined type of restaurant. It can be a bistro, a starred restaurant, regardless of the price of the menu or its style. What counts, it's the impression felt. Of course it's subjective, but to appreciate a cuisine, it's always subjective."
Drew also addresses the theory that 50 Best is trying to overtake or compete with the Michelin guide. He boldly claims that the World's 50 Best has "no problem with the Michelin," and explains "we are absolutely not anti-Michelin. No classification is better than any other. Our ratings are completely different."
Translated from French by Raphael Brion and Amy McKeever.