The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018 celebrated in Bilbao

When the world of gastronomy gathered this week in the Basque Country, Spain, for the annual announcement of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, participants were in for few surprises, reports Tina Nielsen from Bilbao

In a game of musical chairs, Italian chef Massimo Bottura is back on top of the world as his restaurant Osteria Francescana returned to the number one spot of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. He was last triumphant in 2016. The 2017 winner Eleven Madison Park dropped to fourth in this year’s edition. In a night without shocks and surprises, the top 10 has not changed from last year. The same restaurants feature, just in a different order. The top 50 results can be viewed here: TW50BR2018 A4 RESULTSv2_02[1][2].

“We applaud all those involved in this list of inspiring restaurants, which is constantly redrawing and reflecting the global gastronomic map. We are also thrilled to see Osteria Francescana return to the top spot in the World’s 50 best Restaurants ranking this year,” said William Drew, group editor of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

While disappointed, Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park indicated he had come prepared for the news. “I don’t have much expectation because we were closed for five months in the last year,” he said before the event.

Bottura promised to put this spotlight to good use and continue his work for social change. “I am going to use this position for all of us to show that in 2018 chefs can become a new voice. We’ll show the world that we can be the change. We can create a better world one step at a time,” he said.

Along with this non-profit organisation Food for Soul, Bottura has in recent years been opening Refettorios in different cities in an effort to fight food waste and promote social inclusion.

Celebration and reflection

Drew opened the proceedings by acknowledging the pressures of the sector. “Tonight is a celebration but it is also an opportunity for reflection,” he said in a reference to the recent passing of chef, traveller and TV presenter Anthony Bourdain. “His honesty, determination and truth telling opened up new horizons for all of us,” said Drew.

Bourdain might have been the most recent to pass away, but earlier in the year the world of gastronomy left two other giants, Gualtiero Marchesi, widely considered the man behind modern Italian cuisine, and the French culinary pioneer Paul Bocuse associated with nouvelle cuisine.

A good night for Europe

While the extended list of the restaurants ranked 51-100 was noted for its geographical diversity, the announcement made inside the Euskalduna Conference Centre in Bilbao this week seemed to be particularly positive for Europe. Just over half the spots in the list went to Europe with several points to note. Turkey now has representation again, for the first time since 2002 with Istanbul’s Mikla in 44th spot.

Last year’s One to Watch award became the highest new entry as Disfrutar in Barcelona went straight into the top 20 as it took 18th spot. London now has four restaurants included in the top 50 with new entry Lyle’s (38) added to the Clove Club (33), Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and The Ledbury (42).

Spain is represented by seven restaurants in the top 50, including three in the top 10: El Celler de Can Roca (2), Mugaritz (9) and Asador Extebarri (10).

The 2017 best female chef Ana Ros has now moved into the top 50 as her restaurant Hisa Franko entered at 48. And Oslo’s Maemo, another new entry, joined the list in 35.

Elsewhere Den in Tokyo, Japan, was the highest climber on this year’s list making the jump from 45 to 17 in one year. Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns was given the Chef’s Chef award on the night. The Ferrari Trento Art of Hospitality award was picked up by Geranium in Copenhagen.

Taiwanese chef Jessie Liu was the winner of the 50 Best BBVA Scholarship and the Miele One to Watch for Singlethread in Sonoma, California.

Gaston Acurio, the Peruvian chef and pioneer of Peruvian cuisine in the world, was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award. He said the celebration was one that unified the best elements in the world of gastronomy but hinted at the exclusivity of the list. “Tonight I am sending a message to the world that good things can happen when we do things together,” he said. “I want to thank all the chefs who should be here but who are not here and who celebrate diversity, peace, health and opportunities.”

An infographic of the main awards can be viewed here: TW50BR2018 A4 RESULTSv2_01[1][3].


The controversial list is often criticised for this exclusivity, but more than anything it has come under fire for the gender-specific award for the Best Female Chef. While Ros has earned a place in the top 50 this year, Dominique Crenn, the 2016 recipient, did not feature in the top 100 at all that year. In 2017 she entered at 83 but again this year she has dropped off entirely.

This year saw Northern Irish chef Clare Smyth take to the stage to accept an award surely few have the appetite to defend. “People have often asked me what it is like to be a female chef but I tell them I don’t know. I have never been a male chef,” she said.

“We must all encourage people of all backgrounds to enter this profession; we have to make a conscious effort to make it a more human workplace for men and women. We won’t change anything by doing nothing.”

Notwithstanding the criticism, the chefs present who are included in the World’s 50 Best value the list enough to take several days out of their restaurants to celebrate. Mauro Colagreco of Mirazur in France who saw his restaurant move up one spot from fourth to third, said the list had been fantastic for his team. “We are on the list now for the last ten years and the spirit is the same. This is a place to meet with fellow chefs, to share and to celebrate,” he said.

For the chefs based in the Basque Country, the arrival of the awards in their region has been great. Juan Mari Arzak who has been a mainstay of the World’s 50 Best for many years now acknowledged the opportunity. “For Bilbao and the Basque Country this has been a great chance to show what we can and for the world to see us,” he said.

Tina Nielsen