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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ramsay Slumps Out of World’s 50 Best Restaurants: Richard Vines

2009-04-20 23:00:01.3 GMT


Commentary by Richard Vines
     April 21 (Bloomberg) -- Restaurant Gordon Ramsay dropped out of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards last night and kept falling as the chef’s London flagship failed even to make the Top 100 and his rival won the Breakthrough Restaurant award.
     Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley, opened by Ramsay’s former friend Wareing, ranked 52nd. Ramsay’s restaurant came 13th last year. The only Ramsay venue in the Top 100 this time was chef Jason Atherton’s Maze, which came in 91st place, a drop of 34 places.
     The S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants was topped for a fourth year by El Bulli, Ferran Adria’s Spanish venue north of Barcelona. Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck came second -- no change there, even after a food scare when 529 diners reported falling sick following an outbreak of the norovirus
Winter Vomiting Disease.
     Ramsay must wonder where the latest blow is coming from.  He’s become a punch bag for critics, getting hit for supplying his London pubs out of a central kitchen, filing his accounts late and making noisy TV appearances while quietly selling overseas restaurants that he opened with a fanfare.
     He’s most often accused of having expanded too quickly and failing to cook regularly in his restaurants, whereas you will find Wareing in his kitchen for most meal services. (The kitchen at Ramsay’s flagship on Royal Hospital Road is run by Clare Smyth.) Ramsay counters this by saying Giorgio Armani doesn’t
sew suits.

                          Ramsay Ravioli

     Some chefs, particularly Joel Robuchon of France -- who won the Lifetime Achievement award last night -- have expanded internationally without any obvious loss of quality. But I’d rather eat in a restaurant with a strong personality in the kitchen than one with a little-known technician reproducing dishes. (A Ramsay ravioli dish has followed me around the world like a Monty Python blancmange.)
     My favorite Ramsay restaurant is Maze, where Atherton was cooking even on Christmas Day. Before that, it was Petrus under Wareing. Wareing was also in the kitchen on Christmas Day.
     The outrage over Ramsay supplying some venues from a central kitchen was exaggerated, yet it reflects concern by some critics (including me) about the lack of individuality in Ramsay venues. Consistency is important, but not at the expense of excitement. Quirky genius trumps consistently safe for me.
     It’s strange that such a big personality as Ramsay should be responsible for some underwhelming restaurants. One of my most enjoyable evenings of the past year was spent at York & Albany -- yet another Ramsay establishment -- with the Scottish-born chef, 42, who is charming, funny and anything but safe.
He’s quick-witted and funny, without needing scriptwriters.

                         ‘Pinch of Salt’

     “Gordon takes all these sort of surveys with a pinch of salt,” according to an e-mailed statement issued by his public- relations company, Sauce Communications. “As always, Gordon regards his thousands of customers as his most valued critics.  They are his judge and jury.”
     The World’s 50 Best list was compiled from the votes of 837 food writers and critics around the world. I was on the U.K. and Ireland panel for the first time. I voted by post and had no idea how the voting went until the results were announced.
     The highest-placed U.S. entrant was Thomas Keller’s Per Se, in New York, which came sixth. The chef’s French Laundry, which won in 2004, was 12th. Other U.S. winners included Alinea (10th), Le Bernardin (15th) and Jean Georges (19th).
     The awards were announced at the Freemasons’ Hall in Covent Garden. The World’s 50 Best is one of the foremost gatherings of chefs from around the world. Adria, Blumenthal, Daniel Boulud, Robuchon and Wareing all attended. Ramsay stayed away.

                         Slipping Places

     Restaurant Gordon Ramsay came second to El Bulli in the inaugural list in 2002, which was dominated by U.K. restaurants, It placed fifth in 2003, eighth in 2004, fifth in 2005, 14th in 2006, 24th in 2007 and then 13th in 2008. The list started life as a way of promoting “Restaurant,” a U.K. magazine.
     The S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards and List is organized and compiled by “Restaurant,” and sponsored by S. Pellegrino. There are 26 voting panels. Each panelist has five votes, of which a maximum of three can go to places in his or her region. The U.K. panel was chaired by Jay Rayner.
     Noma knocked Pierre Gagnaire from third place. El Celler de Can Roca, in Girona, Spain, was the biggest gainer, jumping 21 places. The other notable change this year was the presence of Asian restaurants in the Top 50. Les Creations de Narisawa, Tokyo, ranked 20th. Iggy’s, in Singapore, which the new “Miele
Guide” named Asia’s best restaurant last October, came 45th.

The Top 50:
*T
1 El Bulli, Spain (=) http://www.elbulli.com
2 The Fat Duck, U.K. (=) http://www.fatduck.co.uk
3 Noma, Denmark (+7) http://www.noma.dk
4 Mugaritz, Spain (=) http://www.mugaritz.com
5 El Celler de Can Roca, Spain (+21)
http://www.cellercanroca.com
6 Per Se, U.S. (=) http://www.perseny.com
7 Bras, France (=) http://www.michel-bras.com
8 Arzak, Spain (=) http://www.arzak.es
9 Pierre Gagnaire, France (-6) http://www.pierre-gagnaire.com
10 Alinea, U.S. (+11) http://www.alinea-restaurant.com
11 L’Astrance, France (=) http://www.lastrance.abemadi.com
12 The French Laundry U.S. (-7) http://www.frenchlaundry.com
13 Osteria Francescana, Italy (New Entry)
http://www.osteriafrancescana.it
14 St. John, U.K. (+2) http://www.stjohnrestaurant.co.uk
15 Le Bernardin, U.S. (+5) http://www.le-bernardin.com
16 Restaurant de l’Hotel de Ville, Switzerland (+11)
http://www.philippe-rochat.ch
17 Tetsuya’s, Australia (-8) http://www.tetsuyas.com
18 L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, France (-4)
http://www.joel-robuchon.com
19 Jean Georges, U.S. (-2) http://www.jean-georges.com
20 Les Creations de Narisawa, Japan (New Entry)
http://www.narisawa-yoshihiro.com
21 Chez Dominique, Finland (+18) http://www.chezdominique.fi
22 Ristorante Cracco, Italy (+21) http://www.ristorantecracco.it
23 Die Schwarzwaldstube, Germany (+12)
http://www.traube-tonbach.de
24 D.O.M., Brazil (+16)
25 Vendome, Germany (+9)
26 Hof van Cleve, Belgium (+2)
27 Masa, U.S., (Re-entry) http://www.masanyc.com
28 Gambero Rosso, Italy (-16) Tel +39 (0)56570 1021
29 Oud Sluis, Netherlands (+13) http://www.oudsluis.nl
30 Steirereck, Austria (New Entry) http://www.steirereck.at
31 Momofuku Ssam Bar, U.S. (New Entry) http://www.momofuku.com
32 Oaxen Skaergaardskrog, Sweden (+16) http://www.oaxenkrog.se
33 Martin Berasategui, Spain (-4)
http://www.martinberasategui.com
34 Nobu U.K. (-4) http://www.noburestaurants.com
35 Mirazur, France (New Entry) http://www.mirazur.fr
36 Hakkasan, U.K. (-17) http://www.hakkasan.com
37 Le Quartier Francais, South Africa (+13)
http://www.lequartier.co.za
38 La Colombe, South Africa (Re-entry)
http://www.constantia-uitsig.com
39 Asador Etxebarri, Spain (+5) http://www.asadoretxebarri.com
40 Le Chateaubriand, France (New Entry) Tel. +33-1-43574595
41 Daniel, U.S. (=) http://www.danielnyc.com
42 Combal Zero, Italy (Re-entry) http://www.combal.org
43 Le Louis XV, France (-28) http://www.alain-ducasse.com
44 Tantris, Germany (+3) http://www.tantris.de
45 Iggy’s, Singapore (New Entry) http://www.iggys.com.sg
46 Quay, Australia (New Entry) http://www.quay.com.au
47 Les Ambassadeurs, France (-2) http://www.crillon.com
48 Dal Pescatore, Italy (-25) http://www.dalpescatore.com
49 Le Calandre, Italy (-13) http://www.calandre.com
50 Mathias Dahlgren, Sweden (New Entry)
http://www.mathiasdahlgren.com

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