Friday - - Profile -

Po­larised’ is a word that could just as eas­ily be used for opin­ions in the food world. In the week that Fri­day spoke to Si­mon, the 2017 list of the world’s 50 best restau­rants was an­nounced, topped this year by New York’s Eleven Madi­son Park. The list has al­ways been con­tentious but also cel­e­brated – it’s the one that Copen­hagen restau­rant Noma topped for sev­eral years, bring­ing its chef, Rene Redzepi, global fame and putting Den­mark on the foodie map. Chefs and the public fol­low its rec­om­men­da­tions, but this year saw even more ques­tions raised about how the list is com­piled, and why there are so few fe­male and mi­nor­ity chefs on there.

Si­mon calls it ‘one of the most spe­cious things on the face of the planet’, and he should know – he was once on the panel of judges (‘I think I was only on once, prob­a­bly I caused too much trou­ble – I was ask­ing where to send my re­ceipts to prove that I’ve been [to the restau­rants he nom­i­nated] and I ba­si­cally just had to fill in a form with what restau­rants I like. That was it’)

‘I think it should be called 50 best press trips. That isn’t to say that some of the restau­rants are not ter­rific – some of them are; some of them are aw­ful. Mu­garitz [this year’s num­ber 9] was ghastly. [Asador] Etxe­barri [this year’s num­ber 6] was one of the best meals. There are some truly mag­nif­i­cent restau­rants on there, but the no­tion of grad­ing them is just a mar­ket­ing ex­er­cise – and it’s a very silly one.’

It’s not all high-end din­ing, he has­tens to add – ‘I have my $10 [Dh36.7) place that I go to and I have my $1,000 place that I go to, far less of­ten. I can go to French Laun­dry and have a won­der­ful time and go to a $10 taco place and have a won­der­ful meal. And equally I can have a bad meal in both places. It’s find­ing the gen­uine, with real in­tegrity, and it’s about re­mem­ber­ing the cus­tomer is first.’

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