Kim Coronica's Blog
S.Pellegrino Worlds 50 Best Restaurant
As if being awarded the title of Electrolux Appetite for Excellence Young Restaurateur of Year for 2010 wasn’t enough of an honour, Thomas Moore and I were also bestowed with tickets to the Oscar’s of the hospitality industry, The S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
Since it’s birth in 2002, the World’s 50 Best has grown from a humble listing in UK Restaurant Magazine to a full blown award show held each year in London. Recent titleholders have included Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry, Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck, Ferran Adria’s El Bulli and now it was our turn to witness whether Rene Redzepi’s Noma would reclaim the title for the second year running.
In the lead up to the big event, Tom and I were feeling guilty that our partners, Crystal & Greg, weren't invited. Sure enough the moment we got there, my phone rang and Greg’s name flashed across the screen. We thought they had called to get a little snippet, but no, they had called to gloat. They had just run into Heston Blumenthal, Thomas Keller, Andoni Aduriz and Daniel Boulud at the Mandarin Oriental in London. Guilt subsided; we were ready for the night of our lives.
In broad daylight, we had arrived with a busload of gorgeous Italians from San Pellegrino at around 6pm. It was a beautiful, hard to come by, Spring evening in London and the square outside the glitzy Guild Hall had already begun to fill with chefs, many of whom we didn’t recognise, being interviewed by the media.
We didn't really know what to do with ourselves, feeling like small fish in a very big pond. My first impressions were feeling akin to a 25-year school reunion. Not only was the average age range around the mid 40s (that's average Rene) but it was like these rock stars of gastronomy hadn’t seen each other for at least a couple of decades. In reality, they actually get together quite often, but their camaraderie and mutual respect is so high, you could hear the backslapping from across the plaza. No competitiveness whatsoever, no concern for their position that was about to be announced, just euphoria that they had each made the top 50 once again and that they were all re-united. It was beautiful to watch.
Being our once in a lifetime opportunity, we wasted no time in introducing ourselves to our idols, and surprisingly, despite our hanger on status, we were welcomed with open arms. Chefs can often be labeled as arrogant and ego-driven but at this level, I would choose opposite descriptors. Sure, they are confident and self-assured but they all had a certain je ne s'ai quoi in common; grace, warmth and presence that was inspirational and infectious. It confirmed something I had always believed in; that everything starts from the top and that success is not derived from talent alone. These chefs were impressive individuals in every way.
I already knew a few of them, Elena Arzak from Arzak, Andoni Aduriz from Mugaritz and Brett Graham from The Ledbury, so there were brief moments I almost felt part of this exclusive group.
We had the pleasure of meeting and being photographed with…
Thomas Keller from Per Se, New York, and The French Laundry, California
Wylie Dufresne From WD-50, New York
Fergus Henderson from St Johns, London
Heston Blumenthal from The Fat Duck, Bray
Rene Redzepi from Noma, Copenhagen
After about an hour of these stellar meet and greets, we were ushered inside. The venue was breathtaking. Built 600 years ago, the awe-inspiring Guildhall is monolithic, the perfect setting to pay homage to the gods of the restaurant world. The main hall, where the awards were announced, was like a hollowed out cathedral lit up like Barbie’s dream house. The ancient columns were awash with neon pinks and fluorescent purples whilst the ornate biblical sculptures were highlighted by raw spotlights. Photos can't really capture the grandeur.
Veuve Cliquot champagne, gorgeous canapes, stations of hand sliced Jamón Ibérico de Bellota - I did not envy the caterers, what a tough crowd. Admittedly, I had no interest in the food and was reluctant to even sip my champagne in case my experience became dulled in anyway. The atmosphere was electric. This is what it must feel like at the Academy Awards.
Highlights of the awards naturally included our Australian representatives. Congratulations to Peter Gilmore of Quay #26, Ben Shewry of Attica #53, Tetsuya Wakuda of Tetsuya's #58 and Mark Best of Marque #70. Other highlights included seeing Brett Graham (Newcastle boy) of The Ledbury debuting at #34, The Roca brothers of El Celler de Can Roca moving up to #2 and Andoni Aduriz of Mugaritz up to #3. But of course, Rene Redzepi of Noma taking out #1 once again was the cherry on top of an unforgettable experience.