A wave of young rock star chefs, all unapologetically breaking the traditional rules of gastronomy, tops the San Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants list

Noma, this year's title holder for ‘Best restaurant in the world', is set in an old Copenhagen warehouse. Its chef, Rene Redzepi, is just 32 years old. Its food is Nordic/Scandinavian, proudly created with local ingredients.

As the San Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants list, unveiled on April 26 in London, shows, when it comes to the world dining stage, there's nothing quite as delightful as defiance. Creative, determined, driven defiance. That's what creates menus such as Noma's: baby carrots served on an edible “soil” of malt, hazelnuts and beer. Featuring raw materials such as horse mussels, unripe elderberries and seaweed, all foraged from the region. A menu so dependent on sourcing the best produce possible, it even insists on curd from Iceland.

Today's well-travelled, and admittedly spoilt, diners desire the unusual. At the same time, in these days of instability — whether we're talking politics, environment or finance — people crave connections to the past, the earth and tradition. The chefs who reach the top are the ones who manage to pull this all off.

Competition is fierce. Fortunately, there's no dearth of talent.

This list of the world's best restaurants, which generates reams of conversation and controversy every year, is published in conjunction with trade magazine, Restaurant to track dining trends. Drawn up by a jury of 800 of the world's most celebrated chefs, food writers and opinion makers, this year's list introduces a wave of young rock star chefs. All unapologetically breaking traditional rules of gastronomy. This includes Iñaki Aizpitarte, changing French fine dining with his Parisian bistro, Le Chateaubriand, which has risen to number 11, complete with its chalk boards and hard wooden chairs. Biko, in Mexico, is hip in a completely different way with its club atmosphere and signature foie 100 per cent candy, foie gras topped by a cloud of cotton candy and sherry vinegar.

In an e-mail interview with MetroPlus, Nathan Garnett, director of the San Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants list, explains why this exercise expresses global dining trends so comprehensively. “This highlights who is doing something important, culinary hotspots, restaurant designs that have captured the imagination and so on. For chefs it's a great opportunity to express respect or admiration for fellow chefs...”

He adds that since food is subjective, the process of putting this list together is a lot of “fun”. “It creates a huge debate each year and that is precisely why we do it, to get people talking about what does make a great restaurant… A beach cafe on Bondi beach, or an Indian restaurant on the streets of Birmingham in the U.K. can all garner a vote if someone feels compelled enough to do so.”

Stating that he's managed to try only a few of the restaurants on the list so far (“although I am working on that!”) Garnett says he likes all types of restaurant experiences. “I recently dined at the Fat Duck and it was incredible — I loved the story telling behind each dish and the fact that they transport you away to another time or place. Equally, I have dined at Momofuku Ssam Bar in the last 12 months and enjoyed the no-nonsense fun, experimentation, and local produce.”

Asia is gradually making an impact on the list. Garnett says they have a significant proportion of the Academy based in Asia, voting and judging the region's restaurants. Iggys in Singapore, the first Asian restaurant to break in, has climbed to number 28. Jaan par Andre from Singapore, is at Number 39.

It's about more than just great food. A great restaurant is about the whole experience. “The definition of a great restaurant will vary from person to person,” says Garnett, “I believe the ultimate test is the memories you are left with.”


The Reluctant Gourmet: Pricey and pureApril 9, 2010

Gastronomic odysseyApril 4, 2010

Global cuisine @homeJanuary 31, 2010

In search of the mystic momo May 14, 2010