South African Restaurant Wins Top Prize at Inaugural World Restaurant Awards
The wait is officially over. Last year, when it was announced that yet another restaurant ranking—dubbed The World Restaurant Awards— would join the likes of Michelin and the “World’s 50 Best” roundup, there was a lot of buzz. The award show amassed an impressive panel of judges—including Daniel Humm, Clare Smyth, René Redzepi, and Rosio Sanchez—and promised to subvert the usual trend of restaurant awards (think tongue-in-cheek categories like “Tattoo-Free Chef.”) And Monday night in Paris, those inaugural awards were finally announced, spanning ten countries across four continents, according to a statement.
The awards were divided between Big Plates (12) and Small Plates (6) categories, for a grand total of 18. Big Plates awards, which included designations like “Enduring Classic” and “Original Thinking,” were doled out to “champion excellence and integrity,” according to the World Restaurant Awards site, as well as better promote diversity. Small Plates, on the other hand, were given out in recognition of “contemporary cultural nuances” and the role that social media plays in gastronomy. Thus, the “Instagram Account of the Year” award was fitting—Alain Passard took that one home, and with just one look at his feed, you’ll understand why. And the winner of the buzzy “Tattoo-Free Chef” award, also in the Small Plates category, was won by none other than the iconic Alain Ducasse.
The ultimate restaurant winner was Wolfgat in Paternoster, South Africa—recognized with a Big Plate for a menu that “is perfectly balanced between creativity and accessibility." Head chef Kobus van Der Merwe (pictured above) crafts the menu with seasonal foods, sustainable seafood, wild herbs, and foraged items. If you’re in Cape Town, Wolfgat is a two-hour drive away; however, you’ll want to book in advance, since only 20 diners can fit in each seating—the website says, “by keeping it small, we keep it sustainable.” The restaurant’s Western Cape location also earned it a Big Plate for “Off-Map Destination,” since it feels worlds away—a small cottage overlooking the South Atlantic, described as "a restaurant of idyllic rustic dreams."
Other winners include Tokyo’s Inua, which received a Big Plate for “Arrival of the Year,” and Refettorio (Food for the Soul)—the not-for-profit started by Massimo Bottura and Lara Gilmore to tackle food waste and food insecurity that also took home a Big Plate for “Ethical Thinking.” To see the full list of winners, head to the World Restaurant Awards’ site.