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The 50 Best is back, but it may never be the same again, by Javier Masías

Equivalent drums resonate in Spain, and in France, as is often the case, the list is received with relative indifference, perhaps due to Michelin’s hegemony in that territory, although this year with the news that Alain Ducasse, the god of new kitchen, had left the main restaurant of the famous Plaza Athénée hotel, and in its replacement would open a much more casual restaurant Jean Imbert, a celebrity chef of television without any stars in his 20-year career. It is perhaps equally revealing that in the space of the hotel run by Ducasse the Naturalité, which is now moving to the X district, worked much more cool and with lower prices.

Indeed it seems that the world, after a decade of abundant production of multiplatform audiovisual material, is saturating itself with the greatest exclusivities and eccentricities of the table. We have seen it happen in the press first, on Netflix then, on the networks, later, when everyone turned from the white tablecloth to the fast casual, and more recently, even to the street kitchen.

Conceived as a recognition of the efforts of chefs around the world, the 50 Best list also has its own battles and modifications, perhaps the most notable being that this year, a total of 500 off-list establishments were announced, most of them much more informal, as a preview of the top 50 who met this week –among them the Peruvian Seven, by Ricardo Martins–, probably in an attempt to follow the casual pulse of the times.

Is the 50 Best guaranteed a place in the future? There is no clear answer. It has had it in the past and, in fact, its complex promotional operation has been so well regarded that it has been financed at different levels by brands or even governments such as Peru. Beyond the unquestionable merit of our chefs, the interest of their influencers corresponds: Central, founded by Virgilio Martínez, occupies the fourth place on the list today; Pía León, his wife, was voted Best Female Chef, and Maido was ranked seven. But if interest in haute cuisine declines, its entire ecosystem will have to mutate and transform in order to continue to exist.

For now there are new rules. This year’s winner – predictably Noma, by René Redzepi – will not be able to compete again, as happened with the winner of the previous edition, Mirazur, by Mauro Colagreco. It is certain that with this new dynamic the list of the best in the world loses some interest, because it stops registering the best in the world because they are the ones who, if they win, no longer compete. Soon it will be the turn of Geranium, in Denmark, and Asador Etxebarri, in the Basque Country. And someday, surely, sooner rather than later, that of Central, by Pía León and Virgilio Martínez, and Maido, by Mitsuharu Tsumura, if Diverxo or Lido 84 or Maaemo or some other incredible restaurant that is not yet considered are put before it, and if the world is still interested in lists, and haute cuisine, massively. Because without a quorum, there is no party.


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