The World's 50 Best Awards, a remarkably influential ranking, has come under fire today. The organization behind the list named Ana Roš, chef of Slovenia's Hiša Franko and onetime subject of Chef's Table, the year's Best Female Chef. And the Internet is not taking it lightly.
"This award is not only absurd, it's insulting," Eater EIC Amanda Kludt writes in a passionate treatise entitled, "We Once Again Ask Why There Is a 'Best Female Chef' Award." Kludt argues that the distinction marginalizes the chefs it sets out to celebrate, treating women chefs as "curiosities" instead of humans whose jobs entail leading a kitchen brigade.
Culinary commentators also took to Twitter to address the issue.
Another year, another "World's best female chef" award. When will we stop adding a gender to these awards? #patronizing— Lesley Chesterman (@lesleychestrman) January 24, 2017
Why do we still have foolish awards like this? Patently, she's a great chef, period. Her gender is irrelevant https://t.co/aBRoagS1mx— Simon Majumdar (@SimonMajumdar) January 25, 2017
It's been a contentious few years for the World's 50 Best Awards. Critics have questioned the opacity of its voting board, paucity of geographic diversity and, of course, binary gender politics. Dominique Crenn, chef of San Francisco's Atelier Crenn and recipient of 2016's Best Female Chef award, viewed her win as part of a continuum.
"I would say chefs first, before saying women," Crenn said in an interview last spring. "I hope in the next few years these awards are going to disappear. And they will. I think they will. . . . But until then, we still have to have a conversation."
The World's 50 Best Awards were started in 2002 by a British trade publication, Restaurant magazine. They have since become a global phenomenon, elevating profiles and obliterating availability at select restaurants worldwide.
The list also holds considerable cultural sway. Previous winners have launched prominent culinary movements, as witnessed with the ascensions of molecular gastronomy and new Nordic cuisine following wins for elBulli and Noma, respectively. Whether the World's 50 Best coalition will use its influence to address continued concerns about gender disparity in the restaurant world remains to be seen.
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