Humm, female chefs and Romito's dream

From Eleven Madison Park's closing for renovations to Arzak. And in Castel di Sangro Niko gets a taste for it

Everyone's smiling in the final group photo in

Everyone's smiling in the final group photo in Melbourne last April 5th. In the middle, the two engines and souls behind Eleven Madison Park in New York, restaurant No 1 for the 2017 World's 50 Best RestaurantsWill Guidara (in the middle) and Daniel Humm (to the right). Copyright The World’s 50 Best Restaurants


Since the plane landed in Melbourne at 4.20 a.m. on Tuesday 4th April, it was a great pleasure to get into room 1729 at the Langham Hotel on the South Bank of river Yarra and find some fresh fruit
The skyline at night in Melbourne from the room at the Langham. The sun rose a couple of hours later
Breakfast with a view of the centre of Melbourne and of river Yarra
Nicolas Chatenier, director of the French panel of the jury for the 50 Best. He invited press, chefs and friends to Philippe Restaurant right in the centre of Melbourne. «France and the Fifty Best had a troubled relationship in the past but this should be behind so here we are visiting a chef who has worked for years with Paul Bocuse». Indeed Philippe Mouchel is as far as it gets from contemporary dining these days. From one extreme to the other?

An edition of the 50 Best as well organised as the one just celebrated in Melbourne, creates an echo that needs to be listened to and shared, with some aspects to which, as Italians, we should pay at least a little attention because they could turn out to be useful. One above all: the Australian effort to promote restaurant scene and products, a work plan that started some time, after 2010, when the federal government of Canberra and of the various states got together so as to enhance Restaurant Australia, a showcase for the cuisine of this huge country.

I was having lunch on Friday, before my night flight back to Milan, with Jo-Ann Moody and Natalie O’Brien. They're managers at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival which throughout a dozen of days covers every culinary aspect, from popular to exclusive food . After 24 years they moved it from early March to early so that the ceremony of the 50 Best wouldn't stand by itself. «Summing everything up, what with the capital, Visit Melbourne and the State of Victoria, the final investment could reasonably be almost 3 million of our dollars, around two million euros. A lot, but putting aside the sponsors, we had journalists, experts and influencers from every continent who would talk about our excellences in countless ways. This is what counts in the end».

Massimo Bottura smiles on Wednesday 5th April when he gets on the stage of the 50 Best in Melbourne to get the prize for the Best Restaurant in Europe, being the second restaurant in the world. Copyright The World’s 50 Best Restaurants

Massimo Bottura smiles on Wednesday 5th April when he gets on the stage of the 50 Best in Melbourne to get the prize for the Best Restaurant in Europe, being the second restaurant in the world. Copyright The World’s 50 Best Restaurants

For sure, next year there will be more local establishments than the current two, Attica  32nd, with chef Ben Shewry, and Brae with Dan Hunter 44th.

After 14 editions in London and one in New York, where they didn't invest as much. Melbourne marked a turning point. Once chefs and restaurateurs paid for their travel expenses. Take it or leave it. This year everything was offered by the hosting nation. If you get people accustomed to good things, going back is never easy. Between May and June, in Barcelona, the 2018 location will be announced and everyone gives for granted it will be Paris. Some whisper Moscow will be next in 2019 and should this be the case, money will be flowing for sure.

In order to stand out, having or being great chefs and restaurants is not enough. They must get known, leave their shed, become part of the global tourism and news network so that they can be judged like hundred others. It's as if Bottura, Humm, Crippa and Roca enrolled in the cookingChampions League . They should first be convincing in their country and I believe that the chef from Modena, second after the success in Manhattan, as well as Enrico CrippaMassimiliano AlajmoNiko Romito represent our restaurant scene in the best way, just like Davide Scabin, down to 59th, an eternal creative lion, and Umberto Bombana, up to 60th place, a formidable Italian prophet in the world, four starred restaurants between Hong Kong, Shangai and Macao, a total of seven stars, like no other Italian chef.

Copyright The World’s 50 Best Restaurants

Copyright The World’s 50 Best Restaurants

Out of them, Romito wished for a while to get the Highest Climber Award, sponsored by Italian Lavazza. From 84th to 43rd with a 41 places leap. Unfortunately for the chef from Abruzzo, Dan Barber, patron at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, just off New York, moved from 48th to 11th place so he got the prize as he was further up .

It's the female chefs who are finding it hard to stand out, but once two they are now 4 among the 100 best, as Elena Arzak, 30th, and Helena Rizzo, 81st, were joined by Ana Ros, 69th, and Dominique Crenn, 83rd. Arzak said: «It's a social matter. The more girls will be able to work in this field without giving up on some choices, the more will emerge in events like this. It's just a matter of time. There are more and more in the kitchen».

But can you tell if the same dish was made by a man or a woman? I don't think so and how about the Basque chef, who shares the kitchen with her father Juan Mari? She agrees: «It's a question of sensitivity, not gender. My father is sensitive and sometimes he embellishes fish with flowers. So when we greet the clients there's always someone who thought it was me and I smile and say no and point at him».

Elena Arzak and Ana Ros. Copyright The World’s 50 Best Restaurants

Elena Arzak and Ana Ros. Copyright The World’s 50 Best Restaurants

If I were a woman, I'd be upset because the prize for the very top is followed by the prize for the best female chef, which basically means they take it for granted that no woman will ever get to the very top. The organisers of the 50 Best could object that a restaurant is independent of whether there's a woman or man directing it, so much so they reward the places, not the people, but the Best female chef  is not followed by the Best male chef award. The lattter, is"obviously" the chef-patron at No 1: last year Bottura, now Humm.

Please note: in two months' time, on Saturday 10th June Daniel Humm and Will Guidara will celebrate the eleventh anniversary at Eleven Madison as we know it with friends and colleagues, then they'll close it. It will open again, completely renovated, in the autumn. Guidara said on the eve: «You must renovate when nobody is expecting is. Never wait for the first signs of tiredness». Humm said after the party: «This success makes our choice even better timed». Never change a winning team, but do change the theatre in which the show takes place. Not everyone is capable of this, and in such a short time.

As for the photo gallery, I took all the pictures with an iPhone 6. It's a way to tell about my four days in a town, Melbourne, which has just one downside for an Italian: it's on the other side of the world.