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On Bad Awards — and Why We Have to Be Better

From the editor: The painfully regressive World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, a new show starring Marcus Samuelsson, and more in food last week

A still from Eater and PBS’s forthcoming show, No Passport Required

This post originally appeared on June 23, 2018, in Eater’s newsletter “From the Editor,” a roundup of the most vital news and stories in the food world each week. It was guest-written by Eater’s director of editorial strategy, Sonia Chopra. Read the archives and subscribe now.


Last week, the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list dropped, and once again it is, as our critic Ryan Sutton calls it, “painfully regressive.” The list is still, somehow, “over 50 percent European, shockingly expensive, inexcusably male, and with strong neo-colonialist overtones.” I won’t get into this, because Ryan already does so here, and honestly, nothing has really changed since Amanda discussed it in this very newsletter last year. But that’s just a good reminder that we have to keep analyzing the news, and commenting on it, and pushing for the industry to get better.

“Pushing for the industry to get better” also means — of course — pushing ourselves. I’m thinking about this a lot as we ramp up to the premiere of No Passport Required, the show Eater is producing for PBS. Hosted by chef Marcus Samuelsson, it highlights immigrant culinary traditions and food cultures in six cities across the U.S., from the Indo-Guyanese community in Queens to the Ethiopian one in D.C. PBS released the first trailer this week, and the inaugural episode goes live Tuesday, July 10.

Part of my role on the show has been crafting and questioning the language in everything from the press releases to the on-screen graphics to the voiceovers. I’m usually pretty vocal within Eater for my distaste for words like “ethnic” and “exotic,” and even “authentic,” in most cases — anything that can be viewed as a stand-in for too cheap or too brown or outside of the super-Eurocentric culinary norms most American food writers are used to. But is it okay for a Vietnamese woman to use the word “exotic” when talking to our host about a dish he maybe isn’t familiar with? And isn’t it just as authentic for an American-born pastry chef with roots in Lebanon to make kanafeh with the ricotta she grew up with here in the States as with the soft cheeses that are more commonly used in the Middle East?

I love that we get to think about all of this, and that we get to question the preconceived ideas about identity and food that we all have, and that this conversation continues to evolve as our communities grow and become more dynamic. And I’d love to discuss any of this with you if you have thoughts — please email me at sonia@eater.com if you want to chat. You can also subscribe to my newsletter, Namaslay, or follow me at @soniachopra on Twitter or Instagram if you’d like to hear more from me.

Until then, here are some links I’m into from around the internet. Thanks for reading!


On Eater

Superman ice cream wrapped in cotton candy.
Minnesota State Fair

Off Eater

Hot pot ingredients at 108 Food Dried Hot Pot
Gary He

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