The week that was (30 March 2017)

- Also heading south is every chef and his dog for Wednesday's World’s 50 Best Awards. This week they dropped the back half of the 100. There was the expected absence of Attica, but perhaps less so, that of Brae. Perhaps we have two in the top 50? All will be revealed Wednesday, all will be discussed in this missive next Thursday/Friday.

Because I am running so late this week and trying to cram in way too many adventures myself, I am rehashing this little explanation of the judging system from last year. As I need the refresher each year, I thought you might too:

The awards, now in their 15th year, are considered by many to have surpassed Michelin as culinary guide of choice - in part because of their global reach and in part due to their judging criteria (or lack thereof). This is also the very reason people find them controversial. 

Let’s start with the voting system (read 1- 5 below, or simply check out their snazzy little graphic here):

1. It’s an academy made up of just under 1000 members.

2. The academy is comprised of 27 chairpersons/chairpeople (both horrid words!), each chair represents a different geographical region (the geographical delineation is revised each year to ensure balance). GT's Pat Nourse is chairperson for our region (Oceania, Australia and NZ).

3. These chairpeople choose 35 buddies to further represent the region. The group must be chosen with a balance of 1/3 chefs and restaurateurs, 1/3 food writers and 1/3 gourmands. (Note the group also must change by 30% each year).

4. These chosen ones cast seven votes. What constitutes ‘best’ is left to the judgment of these "trusted and well-travelled gourmets". There is no pre-determined checklist of criteria.

5. There are rules: they must have dined at the restaurant in the past 18 months. They must also cast three of their four votes outside their own region.

This last point is where Australia has traditionally come unstuck. Given the Euro/US focus of the geo regions, how many of the 936 members out of our region will have been to Australia in the past 18 months? And, to be clear, we’re not talking about a fair dispersal by population (there are only 5 chairs across all Asia), instead the regions are determined by the location of cool restaurants - it's a vicious cycle. 

Enter Tourism Australia. Enter the Invite the World to Dinner campaign. Enter Rene Redzepi and Noma Australia. Enter the cash ($800,000) we are now spending to host 800 international guests for the 2017 awards. Food is an incredible, and well established, tourism driver. Personally, I think it's inspired.

Many think it's all too much - not just the awards but the restaurants themselves. If you are in that camp, you might want to take a moment to read this article on Osteria Francescana, 2016's number one. "This could be an expensive restaurant – or house, or art gallery – anywhere: luxury has no country. The whole of Modena ate here in the first year, I read; in the second year, almost no one; in the third year, the world." While it's no secret I think Massimo is pure delight, I am not alone. So, this is a rare criticism, but also an interesting read. 

- Thanks to the awards, there is so much going on all over Australia. It's hard to know where to look! Passard has been in Tassie, Massimo, Dominique, Brett Graham and Pete were at the Opera House yesterday, MFWF kicked off this week, Tasting Australia at the end of the month. 

- I'm down in Melbs and will be making the most of all of it, kicking off with my delightful buddies Giorgio and Pasi, who are doing 5 days more of That's Amore, popping up at Neighbourhood Cafe in Melbs from tonight through to Thursday (5.30pm - 1am). And rounding out the week with my favourite wine boys, who are hosting a Melbourne Rootstock party this Friday, pairing 6 brilliant chefs with 6 purveyors of delightful wine and booze.*