For the past five years, a trio of restaurants – Osteria Francescana, El Celler de Can Roca and Eleven Madison Park – have shuffled their positions within the leading spots of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Osteria Francescana, which held the No 1 spot in 2016, proved it had an edge on its competitors this year, finishing first on the podium once again.
Helmed by the revered Massimo Bottura, whose inventive recipes read like a compendium of culinary memories and artful deconstructions of the past, Osteria Francescana has been upending the traditions of Italian cooking. Its dishes are almost lyrical, from the ‘Oops! I’ve dropped the lemon tart!’ that pokes fun at our daily strive for perfection to the avant-garde ‘Memory of Mortadella Sandwich’, which was conceived from a memory of his mother fixing him a panino di mortadella every day. And because this is Bottura, the sandwich came with a rosette of mortadella foam, of course.
“I am going to use this spotlight to make even stronger the changes there are going to be,” said Bottura at a press conference after he accepted the award on stage with his American-born wife Lara Gilmore. “Feed the planet. Fight waste. Last week, Henry Kissinger asked me for a selfie. It is unbelievable. We have to involve all the community of chefs… pushing the spotlight you have to make the invisible visible is extremely important.”
Spain’s El Celler de Can Roca, which claimed the top honour in 2013 and 2015, came in second while the third place went to Mirazur in southern France. The award, which is based on an anonymous poll of more than 1,000 chefs, restaurant owners, food critics and other industry insiders from around the world, is as coveted by restaurants as Michelin stars. Bangkok’s Gaggan, hailed as one of the world’s best Indian molecular gastronomy restaurant, remains the only Asian restaurant in the top 10.
Spain has always been a hot favourite at the award every year, especially after ground breaking El Bulli (which closed in 2011) took the prize a record five times. The ceremony also handed out individual chef awards: Britain’s Clare Smyth, who catered the dinner at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle last month, was named best female chef, and France’s Cedric Grolet best pastry chef.
See the full list of winners here.