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Chinese food wants to grace world's dinning table
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15:22, June 02, 2009

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The international status of Chinese food is a bit like that of McDonald's. It can be found in every city but it is difficult to place it among the ranks of the elegant. Why is that?

On April 20, the famous UK gourmet magazine "Restaurant" published a list of "The S.Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants 2009."

El Bulli of Spain ranks first for the fourth consecutive year. Restaurants in countries such as the UK, France, the US and Spain occupy the top 10 places on the list.

The majority of the top 50 are restaurants in Europe and the US offer French food.

Only one Japanese restaurant was selected in Asia and only one South African restaurant in Africa and Middle East made it on to the list.

It is worth noting that no Chinese restaurants, with Chinese food dubbed China's soft power, were selected.

The list does not contain any restaurant in the greater China region, including Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Is it true that Chinese food is really not up to standard?

A total of 806 judges

Asian "representatives" are mostly Westerners

Restaurant magazine first started voting and selecting the World's 50 Best Restaurants in 2002.

According to the official website of this grand award, the judging panel comes from the Nespresso World's 50 Best Restaurants Academy.

The academy selected a chairperson in each of the 25 regions, who then each organized a local voting panel.

Judges in each region can vote for five restaurants (two within and three outside their home region).

The voting panel this year comprised 806 chefs, restaurateurs, restaurant critics and gourmets, who cast a total of 4,030 votes.

Over the past 18 months, the judges visited each restaurant one by one to taste the food and decide how they would cast their five votes.

It is worth noting that among the 25 chairpersons of the judging panel, only one is a genuine Japanese judge, while the remaining judges who "represent" Asia are all from Europe and the US.

After the ranking was published, UK magazine "The Economist" sneered at the award, now in its seventh year, and raised doubts: "The judging organized by 'Restaurant' magazine is totally meaningless. It selected 11 restaurants in France, 8 in the US, 7 in Spain, 5 in Italy and 3 in Germany, but zero from Asia. Restaurants in India, Singapore and China's Hong Kong were excluded from the 50 highest positions and only one Japanese restaurant made it to the top 50. But Japan has eight restaurants rated as three stars in the 'Michelin Guide' (the internationally renowned restaurant and travel guide, dubbed the map of the gastronomical world) and only two UK restaurants have been crowned with the title of three Michelin stars. Isn't this somewhat implausible?" Netizens also raised objection on The Economist's official website: "What a foolish idea this is to exclude the whole of Central and South America and Asia while claiming for itself the world's top ranking? Is there anything more ridiculous than this?"

Aside from the fact that members of the judging panel were overly restricted, another reason that affected the fairness of the selection was that sponsors' participation and commercial hype swayed the direction of the ranking.

US firm Nestle is the biggest sponsor of this voting campaign; its coffee brand Nespresso Coffee Codex is the coffee supplier of 18 restaurants on the list.

It is interesting that after US restaurant El Celler de Can Roca joined the Nespresso World's 50 Best Restaurants Academy and started using Nestle coffee in 2006, it joined the top 50 ranks on the list in the very same year.

By People's Daily Online

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