I’m in London this weekend, attending meetings for the “World’s 50 Best Restaurants” sponsored by San Pellegrino, which will hold its annual awards ceremony later today (about 2 p.m. Chicago time). I’ve been on the judging Academy the past few years, overseeing the Canada/Mid-USA Region. Organizers have divided the globe up into 27 regions, with each region containing 31 judges. The 30 judges in my region (as is the case with every region) have to be equally divided among chefs/restaurateurs, writers/journalists and gastronomes/gastronauts. Every year, we have to rotate in 10 new judges, to keep the list fresh and dynamic.
Every one of the 837 judges votes for 7 restaurants: four have to be from within their own region, and three more can be from anywhere in the world. In the case of the U.S, for example, since the country is divided into three regions (US-West, US-East, US-Mid/Canada) people in my region would vote for four places in Canada or the middle of the country (New Orleans, Dallas, St. Louis, Chicago, etc.) and could then vote for three from the east or west coast or anywhere else in the world. In other cases, like France, which is its own region, those judges would vote for four restaurants within France, then three from elsewhere.
When I first started out on this panel, there were way too many UK and European restaurants on the list (London’s upscale Chinese Hakkasan had no business being on there), and up until recenly, even Asia, specifically Tokyo, was wrongly excluded (they are going to start a Top 50 Asia category next year, based on the total votes that come in as a result of the World’s Top 50). But over the past three years, the list has become more equitably distributed, and they’ve added or divided regions, based on feedback: Brazil is now its own region, and whereas I used to oversee the Canada/USA region, I convinced them to divide it into three different ones (US-East, US-West, Canada/US-Mid).
I’ll be on hand for the announcement tonight, keeping an eye on any North American winners, and then uploading those interviews immediately to my YouTube channel, which will also get posted right back here on the blog, thanks to Ivan the Intern. Alinea (#6 last year) and Per Se (#10) were the only North Americans in the top 10 in 2011; here’s hoping for more of them – and some Canadians for a change – to toast in 2012.