The people behind the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list have heard the criticism of its tokenizing “Best Female Chef” Award, and they know that having just four restaurants run by women on a list of what’s supposed to be the 50 best restaurants in the world is a problem. And so, they’ve decided to do something about it.
According to a statement from director Hélène Pietrini, the World’s 50 Best Restaurants will commit to a 50/50 gender balance on its voting academy and will encourage all voters to “explore a diverse mix of restaurants during their travels and to take issues of representation into consideration in their voting choices.” Pietrini says at least 25 percent of voters are swapped out each year, which will allow the organization to include more women in the next go round.
After pointing out that she is a woman, and in fact most of the people involved in the making of the awards and lists are women, Pietrini acknowledges that given the awards’ influence, it would be good if they were more diverse. But she doesn’t go so far as to say the team behind the fine dining lists has done anything wrong. She writes that because the World’s 50 Best Restaurants doesn’t “manipulate” the awards for diversity’s sake, “we reflect the gastronomic world as it is, rather than as it should be.”
Because of this, the list makers are not getting rid of the Best Female Chef award, which has been criticized for being a consolation prize handed out to women not deemed worthy of the real list. But until the industry achieves “genuine gender parity,” Pietrini says the award is necessary for its ability to “shine a light on supremely talented female chefs who inspire younger women to reach the heights of their chosen profession.”
Pietrini wants to make it clear that they can’t change the lists — only create an environment in which women are more often seen, heard, and considered. To do this, the World’s 50 Best Restaurants will also pay more attention to who is speaking on its panels, as with the upcoming #50BestTalks in San Francisco which features an equal ratio of men to women. And in addition to a gender-balanced judging academy, the organization put together an advisory board of female chefs to discuss gender issues as they relate to awards content and policies. The board’s first meeting in Bilbao included this year’s Best Female Chef winner Clare Smyth, as well as past World’s 50 Best award recipients Elena Arzak, Ana Roš, and Margarita Forés.
Stay tuned in 2019 to see how the revamped academy voting shakes out in the lists. And if women-led restaurants somehow still remain in the single digits, there’s always the Best Female Chef award to remind us all that women are doing some amazing work — that still isn’t amazing enough for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
• Time for change: why 50 Best is committed to a more inclusive restaurant industry [The World’s 50 Best Restaurants]