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Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants: Why we should look beyond controversy

‘Since it started, there has been so much more dialogue between chefs from all over the world...’
/ 07:25 AM April 05, 2018

The 2018 winners gather onstage.

Awards usually come with controversy. There will always be people who will dispute and doubt the win and/or the process. The sixth staging of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna, at the Grand Theater of the Wynn Palace in Macau last March 27 again raised questions and some eyebrows.

However, the chefs being given recognition apparently know better and prefer not to be affected by issues. Instead, they focus on the value of such an undertaking in the restaurant industry.

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“Being awarded the best in anything related to gastronomy is very subjective so I choose not to focus on a label or title, but instead on what it can do for the Thai culinary scene,” says Paste Restaurant’s chef Bongkoch “Bee” Satongun, who was named Asia’s Best Female Chef 2018.

“I was not expecting this award at all so it came as tremendous shock. But I’m tremendously happy with the exposure it gives Thai cuisine, Thailand and female chefs so I take this award as a great privilege.”

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The winners of the Highest Climber Award, Mume from Taiwan and The Neighbourhood from Hong Kong, both climbed 22 spots to land No. 18 and No. 22, respectively.

Lifetime achievement awardee Andre Chiang (right) being interviewed by Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants group editor William Drew

The chefs of both restaurants welcome and acknowledge the recognition, but for them, Asia’s 50 Best is really more about the event than the award itself.

“One great thing is that it gets all like-minded people together,” says Kai Ward of Mume. “You get all these great chefs around Asia and the world, and bring them together. It’s a great way to exchange ideas and to look towards collaborations, or see how we approach different things, especially since we’re too busy cooking in our restaurants and we don’t get to travel to Macau or Japan or see each other.”

David Lai of The Neighbourhood says, “A lot of us chefs do what we do independent of these lists. It’s not a primary motivation but it’s good that sometimes we get recognized. Since Asia’s 50 Best started, there has been so much more dialogue between chefs from all over the world. That, in itself, is very good.”

If anything, Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants can help raise the standards of the food business, especially in the Philippines.

This year, no Philippine restaurant made it to the list. Rather than questioning the winners and the award-giving body, it might be better to ask, what else can we improve on, not with the intention to be noticed and land on the list, but to simply be better.

Winners wear this around their necks thewhole night.

Top 10 winners:
1. Gaggan (Bangkok)
2. Den (Tokyo)
3. Florilege (Tokyo)
4. Sühring (Bangkok)
5. Odette (Singapore)
6. Narisawa (Tokyo)
7. Amber (Hong Kong)
8. Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet (Shanghai)
9. Nihonryori RyuGin (Tokyo)
10. Nahm (Bangkok)

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Special individual awards:
Andre Chiang, winner of The Diners Club Lifetime Achievement Award
Bongkoch Satongun, elit Vodka Asia’s Best Female Chef 2018
Nicolas Lambert, Asia’s Best Pastry Chef, sponsored by Valrhona
La Cime, Highest New Entry Award, sponsored by Aspire Lifestyles
Yoshihiro Narisawa, Chefs’ Choice Award, sponsored by Estrella Damm
Ultraviolet, Art of Hospitality Award
L’effervescence, Sustainable Restaurant Award —CONTRIBUTED

To see the full list of winning restaurants, visit www.theworlds50best.com/asia. Special thanks to the Wynn Palace Hotel in Macau.

Gaggan Anand faces the press after his restaurant was named the best in Asia for the fourth consecutive time.

Mume chefs Kai Ward, Richie Lin and Long Xiong

Chef Hiroyasu Kawate of restaurant Florilege jumps from No. 14 to No. 3 this year.

Asia’s Best Female Chef 2018, self-taught chef Bee Satongun

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TAGS: Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, Awards, controversy
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