I was in London for 48 hours earlier this week, attending the San Pellegrino "World's 50 Best" Awards held Monday night. As one of the 27 Regional Academy Chairs (I oversee Canada/Mid-USA), I'm charged with finding 30 judges each year, which must be broken up equally among journalists, chefs/restaurateurs and gastronauts/world travelers. Another rule is that 10 of those judges must be new each year, so we don't have the exact same results. When we vote, we go online to a secure site, and input four restaurants from our own region, plus three from outside of our region. In our case, those three could be USA West, USA East, or anywhere else in the world. Judges must have eaten in the restaurant they are nominating at some point in the past 18 months. We don't demand receipts, but we do ask them to write a few sentences about why they chose it, and ask them to explain a bit about why they think it's worth including in the Top 50.
There were some pleasant surprises on Monday night, including the addition of a few new entrants into the Top 50; among them, Mexico, Russia and Brazil. Also, it appears the transformation of New York City's 11 Madison Park paid dividends: the Danny Meyer property jumped from #50 all the way up to #24. As head of the region that oversees Canada, I was more than a little surprised there wasn't even one restaurant in the top 100. Last year, there were two Canadian entries (#60 and #77) but this year, with even more judges from Canada, those votes must have been split or diluted somewhat.
I did get a few minutes with Noma chef Rene Redzepi immediately after the awards ceremony Monday night. He assures me that Rosie - his pastry chef from Pilsen - is still there, kicking ass in Copenhagen.