Teamwork makes Spain great

At the 50 Best, a nation as divided as Spain rallies together to support its cuisine, no matter which community wins the most awards. A lesson we Italians fail to grasp. The Niederkofler case and the 'death' of fine dining, are we sure?

There are no stopwatches or metres, there is no ring and no referee or barbells to lift. Instead, there is a strong jury of 1080 experts from every corner of the globe, divided into 27 groups, who vote on what they consider to be the best restaurants in the world, ten votes each. Twenty years ago, the World's 50 Best Restaurants awarded Thomas Keller's The French Laundry in California, and so it did in 2004. Then El Bulli was first five times, and the same for Copenhagen's Noma, though four at the previous venue, and a fifth at the current one. Double wins also for El Celler de Can Roca of the Roca brothers in Gerona and for Massimo Bottura's Osteria Francescana in Modena; single affirmations finally for Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck in London, Daniel Humm's Eleven Madison Park in New York, Mauro Colagreco's Mirazur in Menton, Geranium by Rasmus Kofoed in Copenhagen and, a fresh affirmation in Valencia, of Virgilio Martinez and Pia Leon del Central in Lima.

Pia Leon and Virgilio Martinez on stage at the 50Best 2023. They won on the 20th June in Valencia. Photo David Holbrook

Pia Leon and Virgilio Martinez on stage at the 50Best 2023. They won on the 20th June in Valencia. Photo David Holbrook

It was a well-deserved but ultimately predictable affirmation because, after the establishment five years ago of the Best of the Best club reserved for past winners, whether active or not, for the past four editions the last winner automatically gets there. Thus a well-organised and brilliant party in its various stages loses a certain amount of suspense when the last two positions have to be announced. To refresh the record Spain was second, third and fourth with Disfrutar, Diverxo and Asador Etxebarri, representing Barcelona, Madrid and the Basque Country respectively. Also speaking Spanish, in the top ten positions, are Maido from Lima, sixth, and Quintonil from Mexico City, ninth. A total of six, from three different countries.

It is a huge, and should give some food for thought to those in Italy who discover competitions and rankings a bit haphazardly, basically when there is a vested interest in waving the Italian flag. This was the case last year, thanks to six restaurant moving upwards, with Lido 84 eighth, Le Calandre tenth, Uliassi 12th, Reale 15th, Piazza Duomo 19th and St. Hubertus 29th. With the latter closed due to refurbishment of the building that housed it in Alta Badia, the others have all lost one or more positions, except for Riccardo Camanini, now seventh (and virtually sixth since Central is no longer eligible). Otherwise, Niko Romito is 16th, Mauro Uliassi 34th, Massimiliano Alajmo 41st and Enrico Crippa 42nd.

No toasts, our nature is eternally conditioned by results, but in Valencia many congratulated us Italians, almost incredulously, on our team success. By number of restaurants in the top 50, we are second only to Spain (six) and ahead of Peru and France (four). It is an extremely fractionated picture, 24 nations in all, with Australia absent (the Melbourne 2017 effect is over) and Denmark clinging on to the Alchemist, fifth, to avoid disappearing in turn after winning six times.

Italian smiles at Valencia 2023. From left Mauro Uliassi, Enrico Crippa and Massimiliano Alajkmo

Italian smiles at Valencia 2023. From left Mauro Uliassi, Enrico Crippa and Massimiliano Alajkmo

The World's 50 Best never pretended to hold the ultimate truth because of what we said above. The organisers collect judgements. They have the same communicative power of the Academy Awards or the Ballon d’Or in football. When you ask who is the best in the world in a given field, you end up brawling. To make a point, Maradona or Pelé? But it is also true that Gianni Brera used to say Alfredo Di Stefano, just like Pelé himself. It never ends, there’s never a conclusion that fits everyone. And that is the beauty of it.

For those who wonder why Spain, already seven times first with Ferran Adrià and the Roca brothers, is set to claim an eighth next year in Las Vegas in the United States, the answer is simple: because they put aside parochialism and jealousies to walk side by side, united and thus reaffirm, season after season, that their food has no comparison. Innovation or tradition. With them, first comes the nation and then the community. In Italy it’s the exact opposite.

Enrico Bartolini, 85th, is the Italian novelty of the 2023 edition

Enrico Bartolini, 85th, is the Italian novelty of the 2023 edition

Final note. When Norbert Niederkofler announced in February in Alta Badia that he would close St. Hubertus on the 24th of March, announcements about the death of the starred fine dining restaurant were widespread. That it does not enjoy the best of health is true, but shortly, on the 12th of July, the three-star restaurant will open its new location in Brunico, which will no longer be a seasonal establishment. I expect headlines and comments on the golden renaissance of haute cuisine.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso

Affari di Gola di Paolo Marchi

A mouth watering page, published every Sunday in Il Giornale from November 1999 to the autumn of 2010. Stories and personalities that continue to live in this website


Paolo Marchi

born in Milan in March 1955, at Il Giornale for 31 years dividing himself between sports and food, since 2004 he's the creator and curator of Identità Golose.
blog www.paolomarchi.it
instagram instagram.com/oloapmarchi

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