LONDON, United Kingdom – Spain’s El Celler de Can Roca was crowned the world’s best restaurant on Monday, winning praise for the “collective genius” of the three brothers who run it.
It was the second time the Girona eatery has topped the World’s 50 Best Restaurant awards in London, after taking the number one spot in 2013.
Joan, Jordi and Josep Roca each have their own speciality: the first is head chef, the second creates the desserts, while the third sibling is in charge of the wine.
The awards, run by trade magazine Restaurant, lauded the brothers’ combined talents as a “holy trinity”.
“Curiosity and creativity propel the Rocas back to the top,” read a statement on the awards website.
“This is a restaurant that has never forgotten its humble roots, its sense of familial warmth, or the need to serve remarkably delicious dishes and outstanding wines.”
Josep Roca told Agence France Presse the award made the trio feel “happy, loved”.
“This recognition means that a lot of people trust in us and our commitment to our values and what gastronomy represents,” Josep said.
The restaurant knocked Danish four-time winner Noma down to third place, with Italy’s Osteria Francescana taking the second spot.
The top 10 was rounded out by restaurants in Peru, the United States, Spain, Britain, Japan, Brazil and Thailand.
El Celler uses ingredients typical of its native region of Catalonia, and is famed for its 14-course “culinary experience” paired with wines and sherries from the Iberian peninsula.
Joan Roca told Agence France Presse he hoped the award would help the local cuisine would gain “visibility… especially the excellence in our particular area where we operate”.
The awards, which have run since 2002, have become a reference point for the world’s foodies but were hit by allegations this year of cosy deals between restaurants and jury members.
The contest is run by British media company William Reed, and criticism has focused on the methodology used to select the best restaurants.
The jury is made up of 972 “independent experts” including food writers, chefs, restaurant owners and gourmets in 27 regions.
Jury members choose their seven favorite restaurants where they have eaten in the past 18 months.
Critics say the system is open to abuse since the jury do not have to offer physical evidence of having actually visited any particular restaurant.
Yet organiers hired the Deloitte consultancy firm to oversee the voting, and say jury members cannot vote on restaurants in which they have an interest.
Nevertheless an Internet petition against the competition amassed more than 350 signatures, including those of France’s Joel Robuchon and Italy’s Giancarlo Perbellini, calling for sponsors to boycott the “opaque” awards.
“The jury members, appointed by backroom politics, vote anonymously, without ever having to justify their choice of a restaurant or even to prove that they actually ate there!” the petition read.
The bulk of the complaints against the contest comes from France, which failed to make it into the top 10 for the past two years and has never managed to win first prize.
To respond to the criticism, a team from 50 Best travelled to Paris last month on a charm offensive.
“We are sometimes portrayed as anti-French in France. We wanted to show that that is very far from the truth,” William Drew, editor in chief of World’s 50 Best Restaurants, said at a press conference in Paris.
The award has been claimed five times by Ferran Adria’s El Bulli in Spain, which has since closed, and four times by Rene Redzepi’s Noma, housed in a former warehouse in Copenhagen.
The awards also have regional editions, with a 50 Best for Asia and one for Latin America. – Edouard Guihaire, AFP/Rappler.com