As with any celebration of the best, there’s always going to be a backlash. The last couple of years have witnessed some serious sniping about the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Critics have questioned its relevance to the food scene and called into question its trumpeting of the grandiose element of gastronomy. One such detractor took aim at the focus of the celebration: ‘the culinary equivalent of a CD of James Blunt’s greatest hits; the tasting menu.’
However you view the World’s 50 Best, it appears as though the appetite for this chef fest is a long way from being sated. And, while the likes of Christian Puglisi of Relae, winner of the Sustainable Restaurant Award, as we reported last week, talks about sending out a positive signal to the industry, and Massimo Bottura, proprietor of Osteria Francescana (Number One on the list) highlights global food security issues, then it is well worth staying tuned in.
It was perhaps though a trifle ironic that 3,000 miles from the World’s 50 Best celebrations in the Big Apple, some of the globe’s great scientists, business leaders and politicians were gathered together in Sweden for the EAT Stockholm Food Forum, to work on creating a more sustainable, secure and equal food system.
The focus of this year’s conference was consumption and production patterns, technology and innovation. Among the many heavyweight speakers were Kimbal Musk, board member of Tesla Motors and co-founder of Kitchen Community, who was getting hiss teeth into food waste.
Another notable speaker was Jamie Oliver, who took the opportunity to highlight the huge global issue of malnutrition. Quoting figures from the 2016 Global Nutrition Report, published at the event in Stockholm, he called on everyone to work together to ensure the world’s population could eat properly.
“Currently 41 million children under the age of five are overweight, while another 159 million are too undernourished to grow properly. We’re in the middle of a global health crisis and we urgently need a food revolution so we can reverse the tide,” he said.
“I believe that every person on the planet should be able to access, understand and consume nutritious, delicious food, every day.”
Oliver went on to give the Prime Minister another dig in the ribs, saying: “After the EU referendum, Mr Cameron’s next big job is the childhood obesity strategy. If he does a good job then I’m happy to be his mate but if it’s rubbish then I’ll be a pain in his arse for the remaining years of his government.”
With a few notable exceptions, the Global Nutrition Report generally makes for depressing reading. Lawrence Haddad, Co-Chair of the Global Nutrition Report’s Independent Expert Group and Senior Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, said: “We now live in a world where being malnourished is the new normal. It is a world that we must all claim as totally unacceptable.”
The report reveals that one in 12 people globally have diabetes now, and nearly 2 billion people are obese or overweight.
Sure, an event like The World’s 50 Best Restaurants can be made to look irrelevant, and maybe even bad taste, when its juxtaposed next to findings like these. But, perhaps what it proves more than anything else, is that chefs and those with influence in foodservice can and should play their part in helping to make to change. Just follow the inspirational lead of Massimo Bottura, Chrisitan Puglisi and Jamie Oliver – among many others.