On the eve of the World's 50 Best Restaurants ceremony in New York City tomorrow (local time) comes the news that the awards will move to Australia next year.
"We couldn't be more excited to be taking The World's 50 Best Restaurants to Australia in 2017," says William Drew, World's 50 Best group editor. "As we set out on our global tour - with the first stop in New York this year - the aim is to host our events programme in key international dining destinations which offer appeal for chefs and diners alike, strong and diverse food cultures boasting brilliant restaurants, chefs and food producers."
In a move that may surprise some Australian restaurant-watchers (mostly those who happen to live in Sydney, that is), the organisers of the 50 Best have chosen Melbourne as the host city for the awards' Australian début. But Attica, which has in recent years been the Australian mainstay on the list, calls Melbourne home, and, as Drew argues, the Melbourne restaurant scene has a flavour all its own. "The World' 50 Best Restaurants is grounded in authenticity and credibility," he says. "Melbourne is the authentic and credible food capital of Australia, as well as being one of the ultimate food destinations of the world."
Tourism Australia has been instrumental in bringing the event Down Under. But what's in it for Australia? A lot, according to TA's managing director John O'Sullivan. Not only does the 50 Best align with Tourism Australia's global Restaurant Australia campaign to update the world's understanding of our food and wine culture, he says, the benefits of such an alignment have considerable economic benefits. "The fact that we've seen a $1 billion incremental increase in food and wine spending since we launched Restaurant Australia clearly demonstrates the value of food and wine to the Australian visitor economy."
This year's event in New York is the first time the World's 50 Best has been held outside London since it was founded by Britain's Restaurant magazine in 2002. The restaurants appearing on the list aren't formally reviewed in the manner of a traditional guide; the list is compiled instead by tallying the names of eateries voted for anonymously by an international panel of more than a thousand chefs, restaurateurs and members of the food media. Though it has its detractors, the list has considerable global influence, with restaurants frequently being overwhelmed by requests for reservations when they make the list.
Ben Shewry, owner and chef of Attica, has experienced this phenomenon first-hand, and says the restaurant sees noticeably more international trade as a result. "The first year we made the list… it had really a big impact. People had generally been unaware of Attica, even in Australia, and it really blew it up - we had three TV crews outside the door. It was an overwhelming response."
To celebrate the announcement, Tourism Australia is holding a barbie on the rooftop of The NoMad Hotel in Manhattan, with the all-star team of 50 Best veterans Shewry, Rockpool's Neil Perry and Peter Gilmore from Quay, on the tongs. It's all part of giving the next instalment of the 50 Best a uniquely Australian flavour, says O'Sullivan. "We look forward to welcoming the world's best chefs and food and wine media to Australia in 2017. Come hungry - we know you'll have a wonderful time here."
Pat Nourse, GT's deputy editor and chief restaurant critic, is the chair of The World's 50 Best Restaurants' Oceania, Australia and New Zealand voting panel.