FEATURE: Asia's big nosh
It might seem that the beginning of the year is all about movies with various guilds lining up to reward their favourite films and actors but it's also the time when the food industry celebrates its own by announcing "The World's 50 Best Restaurants".
Launched in 2002 by William Reed Media Group, the list quickly became the jet-setting foodie's bible, and four years ago expanded to cover Asian eateries. Next month, just 24 hours after the Academy Awards are announced in Los Angeles, the "Oscars of the food world", will be handed out in Bangkok to winning Asian chefs and restaurateurs.
Categories include the S. Pellegrino Best Restaurant in Asia, The Diners Club Lifetime Achievement Award, the Highest New Entry Award, sponsored by LesConcierges, the One To Watch Award, sponsored by Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Asia's Best Pastry Chef Award, sponsored by Cacao Barry , the Chefs' Choice Award, Asia's Best Female Chef Award, the Highest Climber Award and individual "Best in Country" awards.
Results are secured from more than 300 leaders in the restaurant industry across Asia, each selected for his or her expert opinion of Asia's restaurant scene. For the 2016 edition, Asia's 50 Best Restaurants has retained the services of professional services consultancy Deloitte as its official independent adjudication partner.
"The voting panel comprises chefs and restaurateurs, food writers and critics and well-travelled gourmets, all of whom vote for their seven best restaurant experiences over the 18-month voting period," explains William Drew, group editor of The World's 50 Best Restaurants and Restaurant magazine.
"They must, however, remain anonymous, aside from the Academy Chairs who head up each voting region. At least 30 per cent of the voters are new each year."
The Academy is divided into six voting regions: India and Subcontinent; Southeast Asia - South; Southeast Asia - North; Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau; mainland China and Korea; and Japan. The divisions are designed to represent the Asian restaurant scene as fairly as possible at the current time and are agreed with the Academy chairs.
"The list provides diners with the only pan-Asian list of high-quality restaurants where they are almost guaranteed not to have an ordinary meal." Drew enthuses."It also serves to bring the restaurant sector together, not just chefs, restaurateurs and the media, but food-lovers too, to celebrate great restaurants and each other's achievements. Finally, it inspires both chefs and diners to reach for the top.
"The Asian dining scene is hugely rich and immensely diverse. I think the list increasingly reflects that diversity with more countries represented each year. Interestingly, there are quite a number of restaurant serving versions, or reinterpretations, of street food, which I think reflects the huge importance and influence of such food in Asian dining culture."
Progressive Indian restaurant Gaggan, by chef Gaggan Anand from Bangkok, was crowned Best Restaurant in Asia and Best Restaurant in Thailand in 2015. And like any other prestigious accolade, the title sent him to stardom on the regional culinary scene.
"One thing I see is that Indian food is now accepted as fine dining cuisine," the chef told XP. "My focus [after the award] hasn't changed: to me, food remains the hero. |We are always under pressure to deliver better and better food so that people love the whole experience. We maintain the quality and standards of our restaurant but we are evolving faster than we thought."
So far, two awards in the 2016 edition have been announced. Margarita Fores, respected chef and owner of an acclaimed group of restaurants in Manila, has been named Asia's Best Female Chef 2016, while Tokyo's French restaurant Florilege is the recipient of the 2016 One To Watch Award. For the first time in the four-year history of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants, the One To Watch Award honours a restaurant that is outside the 50 Best list but is identified as the rising star of the region.
Expect a full list of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants on the official website after the award presentation on February 29.
Copyright: The Nation (Thailand)/ Asia News Network