Ranking the World’s Best Restaurants

In the colonnaded courtyard of the Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso, a former Jesuit boarding school in Mexico City, under a grove of magnolia trees hung with punched-tin stars, more than five hundred people had gathered to learn which restaurants would be proclaimed the fifty best in Latin America. The party was meant to be attended with a drink in one hand, a phone in the other. There were a multitude of bars: wine by Robert Mondavi, tequila by Casa Dragones, rum by Zacapa, champagne by Veuve Clicquot. The Modelo stand was manned by a team of studs in suspenders. Water sommeliers—white tie, white gloves, wearing tasting cups on silver chains—circulated with magnums of San Pellegrino. Inside the program, the event’s organizers, the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, had enclosed a card. It listed Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram information and a hashtag, #LatAm50Best.The password for the 50 Best Wi-Fi network was Mexico2015, which had the advantage of being both dryly factual and sounding like a tourist-board come-on.

“I have friends who are smart, interesting guys who lose their shit over getting No. 1,” the chef David Chang said.Illustration by Brian Rea

The guests were drawn mainly from three constituencies: chefs, journalists, and businesspeople—a triad that thrived as interdependently as corn, beans, and squash. The chefs ran the restaurants, which the journalists wrote about, promoting the businesspeople’s interests, so that they plowed more money into the chefs’ projects, which yielded fodder for the journalists. Onstage, the host was announcing the winners in descending order. (Seeking to extend the brand, in 2013 the World’s 50 Best Restaurants launched separate lists for Asia and Latin America.) Everyone talked through the presentation, but the furious networking only heightened the excitement.

“It’s very difficult to get on the list, and it’s very difficult to get off,” an event planner said to a restaurant consultant.

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