October promises to be a very busy month in Argentina, and not just because of the impending presidential elections taking place on the 27th. The seventh installment of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants will be announced on October 10th right here in Buenos Aires. After successful runs in Lima, Mexico City, and Bogotá, the gourmet action heads down toward el fin del mundo where the best and brightest will be crowned in a live ceremony at the Usina del Arte cultural center in La Boca.
The news was shared by the official World’s 50 Best Instagram account a couple of weeks ago, and the excitement has started to ramp up as the conversation turns to speculation about who will make the cut, who won’t, and what the biggest surprises will be.
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Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019 has touched down in Lima, Mexico City, and Bogotá. Now, it’s heading back south and will be taking place on 10th October in Buenos Aires City! Follow the link in our profile to learn more. #LatAm50Best #BuenosAires #Awards #Chefs #Restaurants #Foodie @sanpellegrino_official @acquapanna @travelbuenosaires
“This event provides a great opportunity for tourism in the city since travelers often choose a destination because of its cuisine, and 50 Best brings major figures from the culinary world to its host location,” says Gonzalo Robredo, president of the Tourism Board for the City of Buenos Aires. “International chefs will find that Buenos Aires combines the best of our own cuisine and of Latin American food due to the variety of Latin American immigration in our city, which has enhanced its flavor over the last decade.”
Beyond the big awards ceremony and fancy-pants gala dinner (spoiler alert: you probably won’t be invited to that), the full program also includes a special thought leadership series known as #50Best Talks, hosted at the Four Seasons Hotel Buenos Aires, as well as the annual Chef’s Fest on October 9th. Other awards that will be given out include the Sustainable Restaurant Award, the One to Watch Award, sponsored by Miele, and the Latin America’s Best Female Chef Award.
It’s about time Argentina plays host to what many consider the gold standard of restaurant rankings (more on that in a minute). In last year’s Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants ranking, the country earned ten entries overall, with parrilla powerhouse Don Julio snagging the No. 6 spot – to the surprise of many.
How did Buenos Aires fare with regard to the rest of the list? Tegui came in at No. 11, Mishiguene and Chila at No. 18 and No. 19, respectively, Elena at No. 32, El Baqueano at No. 36, Gran Dabbang at No. 38, Aramburu at No. 42, Proper at No. 44, and Narda Comedor rounded it out at No. 46. (What’s more, Don Julio and Tegui even made it into the coveted World’s 50 Best Restaurants final list, coming in at No. 55 and No. 60, respectively.)
But how are these restaurants even chosen? How is a steakhouse – albeit a very delicious one like Don Julio – rubbing elbows with the likes of Maido, Central, and Pujol? The voting system and organization as a whole aren’t without its critics. Argentina’s favorite flamboyant uncle Francis Mallmann was even quoted in a 2015 New York Times article about the issue, which touched on everything from validity to integrity to lobbying and amiguismo (cronyism).
In the spirit of transparency and objectivity, the official process is published on the World’s 50 Best website. The voters are an even split of chefs, food writers, and “well-traveled gourmets” (whatever that means), and each voter has to have visited the restaurant they select at least once in the last 18 months (among other requirements). Voting is anonymous and the organization assures that there is “no strict checklist,” “hidden secret,” or “criteria” that play a role in how finalists are determined. Professional consultancy firm Deloitte acts as the independent adjudication partner to both confirm and verify the authenticity of the overall voting process.
For example, according to the website, in order to guarantee a fair relationship between the percentage of votes a region receives and their proportionate representation in the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list, in the event of a significant variance, Deloitte applies a normalization process to the voting data.
However, just because there are rules doesn’t mean that’s how the game actually plays out. In the aforementioned New York Times piece from 2015, illustrious French pastry chef Jöel Robuchon said, “Voters are supposed to have eaten in the restaurants they vote for at least once in the preceding 18 months, but no proof of their visit, no expense bill is required, and I know for a fact that this is a major loophole in the process.” Things may have changed in the four years since the article was published, but murmurs of unfair play and less-than-transparent maneuvers raise doubts.
Drama and intrigue aside, it’s a massive deal for Buenos Aires to play host for Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants. With all eyes – in the food world that is – on the country, this is a chance for local chefs, restaurateurs, and culinary bigwigs to put their best foot forward, celebrate the strides made in recent years, and turn up the dial on that famous Argentine hospitality.