Global events and management firm IMG have today announced the launch of The World Restaurant Awards, a “groundbreaking new award show for a restaurant-hungry public increasingly obsessed with eating, drinking and travel”.
The awards, which are committed to “recognising and celebrating the diversity of the international restaurant scene”, are headed by Creative Director Joe Warwick, the restaurant commentator and co-founder of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, and author of the best-selling Where Chefs Eat, and Andrea Petrini — creator of Gelinaz!, the “groundbreaking gastronomic roadshow” — who will chair the awards’ judging panel.
That panel is to be the heart and soul of these awards; the point of differentiation that will mean a “move away from the arbitrary pop chart approach currently in vogue for restaurant awards”, and instead deliver awards “judged with robust integrity”. A 100-strong pool of judges will include renowned chefs like Yannick Alléno, Elena Arzak, Alex Atala, Massimo Bottura, David Chang, Dominique Crenn, Hélène Darroze, Daniel Humm, René Redzepi, Ana Roš and Clare Smyth, alongside a group of the “most-travelled and best-informed” restaurant journalists from around the world.
The World Restaurant Awards will join an industry awards landscape that is often criticised for a certain homogeneity: awards schemes like the World’s 50 Best or the Michelin Guide overwhelmingly champion ultra high-end, expensive and, to the average diner, completely inaccessible dining experiences, largely at the expense of an incredibly diverse tapestry of other restaurants worldwide, that are at least equally — if not at times more — deserving of celebration. In addition, awards panels — and therefore prizewinners — are dominated by men, and grossly underrepresent the contributions of BAME chefs and restaurateurs.
In the face of this, Eater London asked Joe Warwick how the new awards would address these issues. In response, he underlined the awards’ commitment to inclusivity:
“At the workshop today this is one of the points we are discussing, as we agree it is essential The World Restaurant Awards is an awards which is inclusive and relevant to a wide audience... We cannot yet release our award categories, as this is being formulated post this workshop. We are totally transparent in who our judging panel are, a gender neutral one and this is an exciting and wholly collaborative process.”
The awards will debut in February 2019, with a “world first” televised ceremony in Paris, which IMG hopes will capture the same sense of spectacle and glamour as comparable ceremonies in the film, music and fashion worlds. Petrini was perhaps more explicit about the aims and aspirations of the awards’ organisers when he said:
“We’d like to make The World Restaurant Awards about the pleasure of eating, drinking, travelling and forward thinking. Not the Nobel Prize for food but rather our take on the idea of an Oscars for the restaurant world, with all the sense of zeitgeist and glamour that implies.”
The awards panel, convening today for the first time, have also committed supporting the sustainability of the industry — both in enterprise, and as a global cultural resource — choosing to support the Perennial Farming Initiative, a charity founded by Karen Leibowitz and Anthony Myint dedicated to “combating climate change by mobilising support for regenerative agriculture in the food world”, while Warwick has been eager to re-emphasise that the awards are there to celebrate all restaurants, not just the upper echelon:
“The World Restaurant Awards will be conducted with complete integrity, total transparency and a real sense of inclusivity. We want to make everyone think about the full gamut of the world’s great restaurants — old and new, from luxury destinations to humble institutions — and what makes them so special.”