William Drew: «How we moved from red carpet to fund raisers»

The director of the World's 50Best at Identità on the road: «We've donated 1.25 million dollars to 238 restaurants in 53 countries». And he reveals how the vote will work in 2021

The speakers at the webinar with William Drew, co

The speakers at the webinar with William Drew, content director of the World's 50Best (bottom right). From the top left, clockwise: Gabriele ZanattaCristina BowermanEleonora CozzellaDrew and Paolo Marchi. The complete content is available on the digital platform of Identità on the road. You can sign up here (for info: iscrizioni@identitagolose.it, tel. +390248011841, ext. 2215)

Identità on the road recently hosted an exceptional guest, live from London: British journalist William Drewaka Mr World’s 50Best, «the person», Paolo Marchi rightly explained, «capable of putting on the same level all the restaurants of the world, for the first time in history». Together with Drew and Marchi there were also Cristina Bowerman, chef at Glass in Rome and president of the Ambasciatori del Gusto association; Eleonora Cozzella, food writer at La Repubblica and Italy's academy chairwoman for the World’s 50Best, and myself.

An interesting conversation followed, with some important news. A 5-voice conversation of which we give a large detail here, inviting you to follow the complete event online, as broadcasted on our digital platform.

RECOVERY. It's a known fact: last March, in the middle of the first wave, the World’s 50Best decided to cancel the finals that were to take place in Antwerp in Belgium the following June, thus deciding not to communicate the awaited list of the best restaurants in the world in 2020. They immediately created a significant Recovery Program to support the striving industry, an effort of conversion that was stressed by Eleonora Cozzella who asked Drew: «In the same way as perfume factories converted their production to make hand sanitisers, you also converted your mission. Was it very hard?».

«It was a big challenge», the reporter replied, «but not comparable to the one restaurants had to face. We, like you at Identità Golose, are part of this industry, and we had no doubt we had to reconsider everything. We immediately asked ourselves: how can we make use of our global voice? How can we support restaurants and bars that have no revenues and risk disappearing? We got to work with a series of activities: we received important donations from our partners, like San Pellegrino. We sold 160 activities at auction, including entire days to be spent with the most famous chefs in the world, who joined us for free, in a touching way. We published the Home Comforts eBook on our website, with all the chef's quarantine recipes: the book [available for 10 USD] has already been downloaded thousands of times».

The programme of 50 Best Recovery: here all the details

The programme of 50 Best Recoveryhere all the details

50Best against discrimination: the 1040 voters of 2020 were 50% men and 50% women

50Best against discrimination: the 1040 voters of 2020 were 50% men and 50% women

Can we have an estimate of the funds raised? «Yes, to this day it's 1.25 million dollars. We've redistributed half to non-profit organisations all around the world; another half to restaurants and bars that requested them, a total of 238 establishments in 53 countries around the world. When giving them we tried to pay more attention to establishments in poor countries, or in countries that didn't support them enough, mostly South America and Asia, but also Italy, the UK and the US. We did not support the best restaurants in the world because their position is sounder: we donated to small restaurants and recently opened establishments, with young chefs».

Association Ambasciatori del Gusto was among the recipients. Cristina Bowerman pointed out: «We've spent the funds we received to give psychological support to owners and actors of restaurants in difficulty. We're honoured and grateful for the support you gave us».

THE 50 BEST'S VOTERS. The conversation then moved to the World’s 50Best. How do you select your 1040 voters? The Apulian chef asked. «First, they have to be people who travel regularly, with an independent spirit. Other than that, there is no unique profile; we look for a great variety of profiles. They must all love gastronomy, restaurants, food, and their profession doesn't matter: there can be food critics, food writers, but also chefs, restaurateurs, wine producers, or people who are in a different field. An important fact: we don't send anyone to visit a specific restaurant; the choice falls entirely on the shoulders of the voters. In the last edition we had a limit: there had to be 50% men and 50% women among the voters. There must also be an equal regional distribution within countries or areas».

What are the features that all the restaurants in the list share? Bowerman asked again. «Nothing», Drew specified, «if not that they must all be exceptional, extraordinary, above average. When restaurateurs ask me what's the right format, I say that focusing on a format that might get you into the list in theory never works. In the same way as it is counterproductive to try to find elements that will seduce the voters. I always say that restaurants must first of all try to make their clients happy, possibly with a creative vision. If you match these two things, you're already doing a great job. If you're doing a great job, people will talk about it and this, perhaps, will eventually get you in the list. But if you stick to the ‘I must get in the list at all cost’, the obsession usually leads nowhere».

25th June 2019, Singapore: Mauro Colagreco and his Mirazur (Menton, France) are at the top of the World's 50Best. If there will be no obstacles, the next finals will be in Antwerp, on the 8th June 2021

25th June 2019, Singapore: Mauro Colagreco and his Mirazur (Menton, France) are at the top of the World's 50Best. If there will be no obstacles, the next finals will be in Antwerp, on the 8th June 2021

William Drew with Matteo Lunelli and Massimo Bottura, on the stage of Identità Golose 2017

William Drew with Matteo Lunelli and Massimo Bottura, on the stage of Identità Golose 2017

2021 50BEST. It's my turn. I dare with the question: «You've never announced it, but can we know who won the 2020 50Best?». Drew smiles and does not reply, of course, but he reveals important details on the next edition which, god willing, will take place on the 8th of June 2021 in Antwerp. «The reason why I cannot answer is strongly connected to what we'll do next year. We now have the votes from 2020, which we did not reveal because it certainly wasn't the time, nor did we know how the pandemic was to evolve. It was a difficult decision but we're now confident it was the right one. For sure in some way we will use the data from 2020 also for the 2021 list. We don't know to what extent yet, because there is another important variable: we don't know if in the coming months people will be able to travel again. So maybe we will use the votes from 2020 for the 2021 list, with some updates we are trying to define, such as restaurants that have closed in the meantime, or those that have changed their philosophy in the kitchen. We'll decide in the coming weeks, and we will communicate the choice made early in 2021».

Paolo Marchi: «Is the pandemic an opportunity to leave the old world behind?». «For sure», Drew ends, «all our world must stop, restore and rethink everything. Why do we do what we do? We must all ask ourselves this. If we look at ourselves, I think our role must go far beyond the creation of a yearly list of nice restaurants. We must rethink a series of important concepts including sustainability, not just in terms of environment but also in terms of the rights and wellbeing of the employees. We must work to uproot any sort of discrimination. It's a slow change, which doesn't happen from one month to the next. But compared to 5 or 10 years ago, many things have changed, luckily. We must continue in this direction».

To watch the entire chat, sign up on Identità on the road, by clicking here. For info iscrizioni@identitagolose.it or call +390248011841, ext. 2215.

IG2020: on the road

Gabriele Zanatta


Gabriele Zanatta

born in Milan, 1973, freelance journalist, coordinator of Identità Golose World restaurant guidebook since 2007, he is a contributor for several magazines and teaches History of gastronomy and Culinary global trends into universities and institutes. 
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