The overlords of the controversial World's 50 Best list are really not happy when you question their methods. Elizabeth Auerbach of the blog Elizabeth on Food took to Twitter today to ask if those who vote on the list are allowed to accept invitations from chefs and restaurants for free meals. Auerbach points out that there is a "convincing scientific body of knowledge about the psychology of a freebie" that could skew the judges' votes.
Are @TheWorlds50Best panel members allowed to accept invitations from chefs/restaurants?— Elizabeth Auerbach (@ElizabethOnFood) November 21, 2014
English restaurant critic and former World's 50 Best voter Jay Rayner reveals that they did not have to always pay for their meals and were allowed to accept free dinners, hence why he decided to step down. Rayner says he suggested that "at the very least a comped meal [should] be [considered] a half vote." The suggestion apparently fell on deaf ears.
The World's 50 Best quickly hopped into the Twitter conversation, defending its methods. It argues that the judges are "anonymous," so if voters receive free meals during the capacity of their day jobs as chefs or members of the press, it doesn't impact the voting process.
Auerbach noted that it was "naive" of the organization to believe that its voters were anonymous, after which she apparently received an e-mail from World's 50 Best saying that "they don't want to continue the conversation on Twitter."
Auerbach isn't the first person to criticize the list and its voting practices. Judges are only allowed to vote on restaurants they have visited, many of which are difficult to get into. Guardian critic Marina O'Laughlin pointed out that there's something off about supposedly "impartial judges" who have "have scored reservations at some of the world's hardest-to-book tables, managing to finance the travel and restaurant bills themselves."
Restaurant magazine editor William Drew, who oversees the awards, previously addressed similar criticisms by arguing the list is is a "positive force in the restaurant world." He also attempted to address the comped meals dilemma: "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." But perhaps it is a full meal buying a vote.