What Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards have to do with Colombia

Often called the Oscars of the restaurant world, the 50 Best Restaurant awards highlight the best restaurants around the world. Starting in 2013, Latin America had its chance to shine in the limelight with the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurant awards. The first two years Lima was the home of the awards, but for 2015 Mexico became the culinary focus of Latin America’s attention.

This year, the event was held on September 23 in the glorious Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso in Mexico City.  This gorgeous historical building was an appropriate setting: under the high arches, the red carpet was rolled out to receive chefs, renowned food writers and restaurant owners. Amidst women in glittery dresses and high heels, glasses of champagne, and chefs adorned in golden scarves greeting each other with hugs and kisses, the excitement ran high.

For those of you who were rooting for Colombia, you’ll be pleased to know that the country did well on this year’s most highly esteemed list. Of course, the list is heavily dominated by Mexico, Peru, Brazil and Argentina, but five Colombian restaurants and their talented chefs went home with their awards.

Why would Latin America have its own awards? Surely the editor of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants, William Drew says it best: “We can clearly see why this region’s food includes some of the most exciting and appealing in the world. We witness the creation of marvelous dishes and restaurant experiences from very talented chefs every year, and the trend doesn’t look likely to stop.”

Some special awards were given out:

  • Lifetime Achievement Award went to Mexico’s Enrique Olvera.
  • Roberta Sudbrack got the Latin Amerca’s Best Female Chef award this year (I didn’t notice who got the Best Male Chef award)
  • Latin America’s Best Pastry Chef award went to Astrid Gutsche (of Astrid y Gastón fame)
  • Chef’s Choice Award went to Rodolfo Guzmán at Boragó
  • Highest New Entry went to Lasai, in Rio de Janeiro

So how did Colombia do this year?

  • Andrés Carne de Res, the beloved party spot in Chía, was back on the list this year at 42. It was on the list in 2013 but had dropped off in 2014.
  • Leo went up 16 places in relation to 2014: from 49 to 33.
  • El Cielo went from 46 in 2014 to 30 in 2015.
  • Harry Sasson is at number 24 (which is also a ride up the list from last year, when his glittering restaurant came in at No. 43).
  • Criterión, Bogota’s darling at the capable hands of the famous (at least in Colombia) Rausch brothers, Jorge and Mark, also ascended the list. In 2014 they came in 39. This year they were number 18 on the list. That won them the award as the restaurant that most ascended the list, up an amazing 21 places. And, of course, they are still first on the list for Colombia, a position that is hard to shake.

How important is this growing restaurant scene to Colombia’s future? That could be debatable, but Jorge Rausch confidently told El Tiempo: “Five Colombian restaurants are within the 50 Best in Latin America, and they all ranked higher [this year]. All of us want to show that our country, and our gastronomy, is worth visiting and appreciating. We are on the right path to making gastronomy the tourist heritage of Colombia.”

Colombia scored well on another point – a surprising one for some.  The One to Watch Award went to iLatina, a restaurant in Buenos Aires where Colombian chef Santiago Macias brings Colombian arepas and other delights from the Caribbean to the southern cone.

This year, the best of the best for Latin America again belongs to Virgilio Martínez, for his Central restaurant in Lima.

For the complete listing, see the World’s 50 Best website.

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