What’s so special about world’s best restaurant Eleven Madison Park?

The New York restaurant is the first US establishment to win the title since 2004


A New York restaurant where “what really matters is how we make our guests feel” was named world’s best restaurant today. Will Guidara and chef Daniel Humm’s Eleven Madison Park took the top slot in the World’s Fifty Best list. It’s the first time the accolade has gone to an American restaurant in over a decade, putting Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana in Modena in the number two position. 

Guidara told the awards ceremony in Melbourne Australia that he and chef Daniel Humm had dedicated their careers to creating “extraordinarily memorable moments in peoples’ lives,” not least of which is the arrival of the bill in a restaurant where dinner costs $295 a head with another $175 each for the wine. (Read Catherine Cleary’s review of Eleven Madison Park here)

Eleven Madison Park’s co-owner Will Guidara said the restaurant was about creating “magical worlds where people can escape in a world where people increasingly need a little bit more magic.”

“I don’t think any of us here do what we do for the accolades,” he told the audience of the world’s best known chefs gathered in Melbourne’s nineteenth century Royal Exhibition Building. “ But affirmation is a beautiful thing. It fills your gas tank.”

It also fills your reservations list with top-ranked restaurants booked for months in advance. Eleven Madison Park sells pre-paid tickets through the Tock restaurant booking system. Diners pay the full amount up front when they book a table. Shortly after the award was announced tables were available for late slots this week and earlier dining slots next month. Starting next week they will be serving an 11 course “retrospective menu highlighting the most significant dishes from the last eleven years.” 

The restaurant was opened in 1998 by restaurateur Danny Meyer, the brains behind Shake Shack, a branch of which sits in Madison Square Park outside. Will Guidara arrived as general manager in 2006, putting as much of an emphasis on the front of house experience as the expertise in the kitchen and with Swiss chef Daniel Humm they took the restaurant from French brasserie to fine dining. Eleven Madison Park entered the top 50 list seven years ago and has been steadily climbing since. Two years ago it was widely rumoured to be moving into the number one slot when Spanish restaurant El Celler de Can Roca took that prize. 

Chef Daniel Humm, told the awards ceremony which was streamed live on the Internet, that it didn’t matter “how good it is what we put on the plate if it’s not served graciously and with sincerity.” 

The World’s 50 Best Restaurants started as in 2002 as a magazine feature in the little-known London magazine Restaurant. A perfect storm of an Internet obsession with lists and hyperbolic accolades quickly turned the wheeze into the world’s most influential ranking system. This year’s winners were chosen by 1,040 “restaurant industry experts” who each had to nominate ten restaurants. The list is not without its critics, not least for its abysmal representation of women chefs. For yet another year one single restaurant with a woman head chef was represented in the top fifty, Elena Arzak’s San Sebastian restaurant. Swedish photographer Per-Anders Jorgensen founder of cult food magazine Fool told last year’s Food on the Edge conference in Galway that he and his partner Lotta had resigned from the judging panel because they didn’t agree with what the list had become and had been getting “phonecalls from people to come and eat for free.” 

Slovenian chef Ana Ros was named “Best Female Chef” at today’s ceremony and told the audience that she wasn’t going to cry. “Women cry for different things,” she said, describing a constant pull between family and career. Eighteen hour days take her away from her children, she said at her restaurant Hisa Franko in what was a family house in Kobarid, Slovenia. And when she is with her children she is needed in her restaurant. “There is always somebody missing me strongly,” she said. Her “ticket to the world of the male chefs” was taking part in a Cook it Raw event in Poland where she missed the plane, fell in a river, was bitten by a dog and had a severe reaction to a bee sting. But her dish of “smoked beetroot” was a hit and put her restaurant and region on the culinary map. 

“It is a very wrong message that male chefs are not accepting female chefs,” she said. “I think they do accept us, especially when we show we can cook.” She dedicated her award to her “fantastic children. They have been living in the kitchen, literally.”

Receiving a lifetime achievement award British chef Heston Blumenthal called the idea of the list an oxymoron. “You can’t have a best restaurant, but the fact that some of the greatest chefs on the planet have come here ... let’s take it not as reality but as celebration of what makes us human and that is to cook.”

Host ITV4 presenter Mark Burden-Smith channelled his inner Alan Partridge for the event, announcing at one stage that he was an utter loser, praised strip clubs and then took it back calling himself a “modern man”, called one of the many suited business men who presented awards a “bit of executive crumpet” and joked about a Belgian restaurant where the knives are made with walrus penis bones, “where you’re advised to eat slowly so the knives don’t get too excited.” 

The second half of the list restaurants 51 to 100 was posted earlier online.

The Top 50 (Last year’s place in parentheses)

* Eleven Madison Park, New York (3)
* Osteria Francescana, Modena, Italy (1)
* El Celler de Can Roca, Girona, Spain (2)
* Mirazur, Menton, France (6)
* Central, Lima (4)
* Asador Etxebarri, Axpe, Spain (10)
* Gaggan, Bangkok (23)
* Maido, Lima (13)
* Mugaritz, San Sebastian, Spain (7)
* Steirereck, Vienna (9)
* Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, New York (48)
* Arpage, Paris (19)
* Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, Paris (58)
* Restaurant André, Singapore (32)
* Piazza Duomo, Alba, Italy (17)
* D.O.M., São Paulo, Brazil (11)
* Le Bernardin, New York (24)
* Narisawa, Tokyo (8)
* Geranium, Copenhagen (28)
* Pujol, Mexico City (25)
* Alinea, Chicago (15)
* Quintonil, Mexico City (12)
* White Rabbit, Moscow (18)
* Amber, Hong Kong (20)
* Tickets, Barcelona (29)
* The Clove Club, London (26)
* The Ledbury, London (14)
* Nahm, Bangkok (37)
* Le Calandre, Rubano, Italy (39)
* Arzak, San Sebastian, Spain (21)
* Pavillon Ledoyen, Paris (72)
* Attica, Melbourne (33)
*Astrid y Gastón, Lima (30)
* De Librije, Zwolle, Netherlands (38)
* Septime, Paris (50)
* Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London (45)
* Saison, San Francisco (27)
* Azurmendi, Larrabetzu, Spain (16)
* Relae, Copenhagen (40)
* Cosme, New York (96)
* Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet, Shanghai (42)
* Boragó, Santiago (36)
* Reale, Castel di Sangro, Italy (84)
* Brae, Birregurra, Australia (65)
* Den, Tokyo (77)
* L’Astrance, Paris (57)
* Vendome, Bergisch Gladbach, Germany (35)
* Restaurant Tim Raue, Berlin (34)
* Tegui, Buenos Aires (68)
* Hof van Cleve, Kruishoutem, Netherlands (53)

Source: Bloomberg

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