William Drew is the Editor of Restaurant Magazine and the Group Editor of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants array of culinary awards. March 25 of this year will mark the fourth annual award from that organization of The World’s Best Female Chef. Since its inauguration under the sponsorship of Champagne house Veuve Clicquot, the past best women chefs have been Anne-Sophie Pic (2011), Elena Arzak (2012) and Nadia Santini (2013). In light of the recent controversies involving Time magazine’s infamous ‘Gods of Food’ issue (which made no mention of women chefs) and Top Chef Canada’s recent controversial ad campaign, GFR caught up with Drew to see if this year’s competition was gaining heightened interest.
Reached on the telephone from his London, England office Drew explained that attention for the award had been growing anyway, but he thought there was a particular uptick in interest from North America, where the role of women chefs in the media has been widely discussed over the last year or so (cf. chef Amanda Cohen’s open blog post to Anthony Bourdain). Drew also said that regional interest in his group’s recently awarded Best Female Chef Asia to Lanshu Chen of Le Mout in Taiwan was particularly high this year; especially and obviously, he added, on that island.
Drew was tight lipped who might win or what nominations have been percolating up from the Best Restaurant’s voting academy of over 900 experts. The panel that decides the Best Female Chef is the same one that decides The World’s Best Restaurants. He did concede, however, that this year’s array of names “might not be as rich as we hope it will be in the future, but that’s why it’s needed”. Drew explained the award, which is sponsored by a company famously begun and grown by a woman, was set up to “send a positive message” in an industry that is still characterized by “male domination”. Of the 2013 list of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants only two have women chefs: Arzak in Saint Sebastian and Mani in Sao Paulo. Both women chefs at those restaurants, Elena Arzak and Helena Rizzo share chef designation with a man: their father and husband, respectively.
At the end of our conversation, GFR couldn’t resist asking why Canadian restaurants don’t seem to place prominently very often on the annual restaurant list. He explained it was “something of a mystery” since Canada is well represented in the voting academy and added, with a chuckle, that he hoped Canadian restaurants would starting placing more frequently, but only “so Canadian journalists will stop asking my why they don’t!”
Find out more about all of the awards at theworlds50best.com, and watch for coverage of this year’s winner at GFR.
Malcolm Jolley is a founding editor of Good Food Revolution and Executive Director of Good Food Media, the company that publishes it. Follow him at twitter.com/malcolmjolley