El Celler de Can Roca returns to top as World’s Best Restaurant

JUNE 2 (Reuters) — Spanish restaurant El Celler de Can Roca regained its title as the world’s best restaurant on Monday (June 1), fending off previous winner Noma, with which it has alternated the top honor in recent years.

The Copenhagen restaurant dropped two places to No. 3, knocking chef-owner Rene Redzepi off the top spot he had held last year and for three previous years at the annual fine dining ceremony held in London’s Guildhall.

The world’s best chefs gathered at the Guildhall in the City (London’s financial district) for the yearly ceremony, considered to be the most important in the gastronomical world.

“This is where you see the fashion of cooking and what’s in vogue. Most of the chefs who want to be here, who are here, are saying ‘wow I’m here’, and those who can’t, they want to be here so it’s a prestige of every chef to be here,” explained Gaggan Anand, who’s restaurant Gaggan placed tenth.

El Celler de Can Roca, run by three brothers in Girona, Spain, since 1986, was described as “hospitality at its finest” by organizers and took second place in 2014 after knocking Noma from the top perch in 2013.

While the brothers admitted that there is competition among the top chefs, they told Reuters,”We are friends and obviously any of the fifty restaurants that are on this list have the chance to be in the top positions. This list contains a selection of great restaurants. These past years we have been among these positions. We hope to stay. But anyway, this is not an aggressive rivalry but kind and friendly.”

Italy’s Osteria Francescana in Modena was the near winner this year, moving up one place to No. 2, while Central in Lima climbed 11 places to settle in at No. 4, pushing New York’s Eleven Madison Park to fifth place.

The top 10 was rounded off by Mugaritz in San Sebastian, Spain, London’s Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Narisawa in Tokyo, D.O.M in Sao Paulo and Gaggan in Bangkok.

European restaurants dominated the top 50, taking 18 of the remaining 25 places for popular locations in Spain and France, along with White Rabbit, a new entry from Russia.

Other notable winners include Helene Darroze at her eponymous Paris restaurant and at the Connaught in London, named the World’s Best female chef, and French chef Daniel Boulud, best known for the New York-based Daniel, who picked up this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

The awards, now in their 14th edition, have become a coveted honor for high-end restaurants around the world, rivaling the longstanding Michelin guides.

But this year’s ceremony arrived amid recent criticism over its voting process.

The list, organized by trade publication Restaurant magazine since 2002, is based on the personal experiences of more than 1,000 chefs, restaurateurs and food experts, rather than according to a pre-determined criteria.

A French group called Occupy 50 Best launched a petition in protest, accusing organizers of sexism, bias and a lack of transparency in the judging system.

Last year’s winner, Chef Rene Redzepi of Noma reflected on the petition. “I appreciate it,” he said. “And I think, you know what, anything that can push this list – because it’s become influential to the point where it can change economies in countries – to have it be more structured, more organized, why not? Of course. So for that reason I think it’s good. That’s what I have to say about that. I think when there is criticism there’s something about it.”

Ahead of the countdown, Group Editor William Drew said that organizers had brought in consultancy firm Deloitte this year as an independent adjudicator to oversee the voting process.

The Roca brothers embraced emotionally when their win was announced. Joan Roca i Fontané told Reuters afterwards, “We are happy and surprised. We didn’t expect it; it has been a magic moment. We have experienced something we were already familiar with and we will try to enjoy this moment professionally.”

It was also announced that in 2016, the awards will be held in New York City, the first time it will be staged outside of Britain.