The New York Times has an answer for anyone who wondered how faraway Melbourne, Australia came to host the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. That answer, it should surprise no one, is money: Tourism Australia paid $600,000 to host the World’s 50 Best Restaurants this week, while another tourism office, Visit Victoria, provided the location for the ceremony, the Times reports. The two organizations also planned “lavish multiday experiences” bringing international visitors to the annual event, which names the chefs and restaurants that have won spots on the controversial list.
Melbourne is just the third city to host the awards ceremony. The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, which is organized by London-based Restaurant magazine and William Reed Business Media, held the ceremony in London for 14 years before embarking on a “global tour of the greatest gastronomic destinations” (first stop: New York). This year, according to the Times, Tourism Australia flew the list’s managing director, Tim Brooke-Webb, to Melbourne and treated him to the best Melbourne’s dining scene had to offer, as they discussed why the city should be the next stop on the World’s 50 Best tour. It worked.
Hosting awards like the World’s 50 Best Restaurants can boost cities’ culinary profiles. Tourism boards have hosted entire seasons of Top Chef — Louisiana spent $375,000 in combined BP recovery funds and tourism board money to bring the show to New Orleans — and Crain’s reports that the city of Chicago’s tourism wing committed $2.8 million to the James Beard Foundation to host those awards ceremonies in 2016 and 2017. The funds in that case came from a range of sponsors, including national companies like Lexus and American Airlines.
But the $600,000 that Melbourne tourism boards spent, not including the additional cost of wining and dining journalists and other industry folk, is a lot. According to the Times, the decision to woo the World’s 50 Best Restaurants fits in with a years-long campaign to raise Australia’s food and drink profile. The campaign has been successful so far, increasing international travelers’ food and wine spending in Australia by $1 billion.
Melbourne’s year as host of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants coincided with a second Australian restaurant making it onto the list — Brae, a produce-driven tasting menu restaurant from former Mugaritz chef Dan Hunter in Birregurra, Victoria, came in at no. 44, joining Melbourne’s Attica, another fine-dining restaurant with a tasting menu, which ranked at no. 32 this year.
If the appearance of New York’s Eleven Madison Park in the no. 1 spot just a year after that city hosted the awards is any indication, you may be seeing more Australian restaurants on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants rankings this time next year.
• How Melbourne Landed the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards [NYT]
• James Beard Awards gala sticks with Chicago through 2017 [Crain’s]
• Top Chef Gets $375,000 From NOLA and Louisiana (Using BP Oil Spill Recovery Funds)[E]