Not everyone is a fan of the World's 50 Best Restaurants, an organization and awarding body established in 2002 and sponsored primarily by S.Pellegrino. A new petition is circulating on the internet calling for sponsors to stop supporting the awards, blogger and Eater contributor Elizabeth Auerbach notes. Started over the weekend by three friends in France — food blogger Marie Eatsider, documentary filmmaker Hind Meddeb, and PR agency owner Zoé Reyners — the petition is called Occupy 50 Best. According to their website, the creators believe the awards are "opaque, sexist, and complacent." Reyners tells Eater, "What once started out as a communications operation, a PR push, is now a reference point for the food world." However, she notes, the awards have done nothing "to professionalize themselves."
"What once started out as a communications operation... is now a reference point for the food world."
That's not all: The petition points out that many of the "best restaurants in the world," are "intoxicating" their customers. Reyners believes the word "intoxication" should be taken in a literal as well as a metaphorical sense. The Fat Duck and Noma — noted restaurants and award winners — dealt with norovirus contaminations. As for award winner and now-shuttered elBulli, other chefs have claimed that the chemicals the restaurant used were "poisonous." Reyners, Eatsider, and Meddeb add that the list is not built on any "gastronomic, deontological, or even sanitary criteria."
The trio claim that one of the largest issues with the awards is that the jury members are anonymous and never have to justify their votes nor "give proof that they ever set foot [in the restaurants]." Reyner notes, "There is no transparency to the process."
This, the trio argues on the movement's website, results in a ranking that "shamelessly mixes in partiality," by giving partner countries over-representation on the list, and self promotion — the petition claims that some of the jury members are also chefs on the list. Plus, the list is very low in female award winners, thus highlighting its "male chauvinism." In an attempt to remedy this, the team behind the awards started a separate and somewhat controversial Best Female Chef award, which most recently went to chef Hélène Darroze.
Will World's 50 Best "clean up" their act?
So far, 134 people have signed the petition which features images of fist grasping a fork, a logo Reyners says the group designed themselves. The petition also has a list of "food world supporters" including the Editor-in-Chief of Bouillon Magazine, Will Jansen, chefs from around France like Jean-Andre Charial of L'Oustau de Baumanière in Provence and Eric Jambon of Domaine des Sequoias in Ruy. While the petition was started in France, Reyners says she made sure to have the text translated into other languages because "if it is just a French movement, it doesn't mean anything."
Like Occupy Wall Street, Occupy 50 Best is supposed to be a "grassroots movement," with no singular leader and demands that evolve over time. Reyners hopes that the Occupy 50 Best movement will put pressure on the World's 50 Best to "clean up their organization," and add more transparency to the judging process. Until then, "hopefully some people will think twice about the credibility of the awards," says Reyners. The World's 50 Best Restaurants awards for 2015 will be announced on June 1.
Eater has reached out to World's 50 Best for comment, but has not yet heard back.
Update 5/20, 11:51 a.m. EST: A representative from World's 50 Best responded with a comment: "This year the awards have engaged Deloitte to ensure utmost integrity and credibility." A spokesperson also referred Eater to a quote from a recent press release detailing this move: "This year, we are delighted to introduce world-renowned consultancy Deloitte as an independent adjudicator to validate the voting process and the resulting list. We feel this is an important step in reinforcing the integrity and credibility of The World's 50 Best Restaurants."