For the second annual World’s Best Restaurants from Travel + Leisure and Food & Wine, we tapped a network of chefs, food writers, and world travelers — plus last year’s winners and our own editorial teams — to nominate the restaurants that best reflect the spirit of their communities.

By T+L/F&W Staff
August 20, 2020
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Clockwise from top left: chefs Helena Rizzo, Abigail Mbalo-Mokoena, Pietro Zito, Ben Shewry, Ana Ros, Niki Nakayama, and Virgilio Martinez.
| Credit: Clockwise from top left: Ériver Hijano; A. Gorman/Courtesy of 4Roomed eKasi Culture; Cedric Angeles; Colin Page/Courtesy of Attica; Cedric Angeles; Zen Sekizawa/Courtesy of n/naka; Caroll Taverns

Before writer Besha Rodell set out on her journey to select the 2020 list of the World’s Best Restaurants, we here at Travel + Leisure and Food & Wine solicited nominations from a team of esteemed chefs, food journalists, and travel experts — our culinary panel — along with our own editorial teams and honorees from last year’s list. We asked these pros to consider the restaurants that feel the most singular, the places that best capture the energy and spirit of their locations. Ahead, the details on our panelists — plus select quotes from them on a few of this year’s winners.  

“One of the most special dishes at Cocina Chontal is horneado, a mix of pork and chiles — ancho, mulato, and guajillo — with sour oranges, red onions, tomatoes, garlic, and spices like cumin and cinnamon. Chef Nelly Córdova Morillo takes the time to cook it properly, the way she learned from her family.” — panelist Mariana Camacho, editor in chief of Food & Wine en Español, on 2020 World’s Best Restaurant Cocina Chontal, in Comalcalco, Tabasco, Mexico

“At Orlando’s, the experience is warm and inviting. Chef Orlando and his staff make you feel like 

you have known them for years, or like you’re dining in someone’s Creole home. His take on classic French dishes using local ingredients is mind-blowing. If you go during lobster season, you have hit the jackpot!” — panelist Nina Compton, chef-owner of Compère Lapin and Bywater American Bistro in New Orleans, on 2020 World’s Best Restaurant Orlando’s in Soufrière, St. Lucia

“There’s something magical about coming upon this restaurant in an otherwise typically Australian small town. The surrounding countryside is rich with organic farms and abundant tropical produce — chef Josh Lewis pulls from ocean and land to create modern, thoughtful food.” — panelist Skye Gyngell, chef of Spring in London, on 2020 World’s Best Restaurant Fleet, in Brunswick Heads, New South Wales, Australia

“Lucia Soria is a total superstar, and she represents the absolute best and brightest of Uruguayan cuisine. My meal at Jacinto incorporated all of Uruguay’s varied regional and international influences in a smart and absolutely delicious way. So special.” — panelist Maria Yagoda, digital restaurant editor at Food & Wine, on 2020 World’s Best Restaurant Jacinto, in Montevideo, Uruguay

“Chef Rafael Costa e Silva is a fully committed perfectionist — an attribute that makes a huge difference in the kitchen. The simplicity of his cuisine is amazing, and he does remarkable work championing local produce. His care with the ingredients makes Lasai stand out among Rio’s great places to eat.” — panelist Helena Rizzo, chef of 2019 World’s Best Restaurant honoree Mani, in São Paulo, on 2020 honoree Lasai, in Rio de Janeiro

The Culinary Panel

BILL ADDISON, restaurant critic for the Los Angeles Times

JEN AGG, Toronto restaurateur and author of I Hear She’s a Real Bitch (Penguin, 2017)

GABRIELA CÁMARA, chef-owner of Contramar in Mexico City and Cala in San Francisco, and author of My Mexico City Kitchen (Lorena Jones, 2019)

NINA COMPTON, chef-owner of Compère Lapin and Bywater American Bistro in New Orleans

SURESH DOSS, Toronto–based editor and food columnist for the CBC

SKYE GYNGELL, chef-owner of Spring in London and culinary director of Heckfield Place in Hampshire, England

SOLEIL HO, restaurant critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and cohost of the podcast Extra Spicy

ABHISHEK HONAWAR, founder of Mumbai–based Honawar Hospitality Group and owner of Inday restaurants in New York City

SARAH KHAN, New York City–based travel writer

PADMA LAKSHMI, New York City–based host of Hulu’s Taste the Nation Bravo’s Top Chef 

ANGIE MAR, chef-owner of the Beatrice Inn in New York City and author of Butcher and Beast (Clarkson Potter, 2019)

ADRIAN MILLER, Denver–based culinary historian and author of Black Smoke (UNC Press, 2021)

BONNIE MORALES, chef-owner of Kachka and Kachka Lavka in Portland, Oregon

LUVO NTEZO, sommelier at One&Only Cape Town

SARAH OAKES, editor and food writer based in Amman, Jordan 

KWAME ONWUACHI, Washington, D.C–based chef and author of Notes From a Young Black Chef (Knopf, 2019)

ELLIA & JUNGHYUN PARK, co-owners of Atoboy and Atomix in New York City 

ROSE PREVITE, owner of Compass Rose and Maydan in Washington, D.C.

RUTH REICHL, upstate New York–based food writer and author of Save Me the Plums (Random House, 2019) 

HELEN ROSNER, food correspondent for the New Yorker

MARCUS SAMUELSSON, New York City–based chef, global restaurateur, and host of No Passport Required on PBS

NANCY SINGLETON HACHISU, Japan–based food writer and author of Food Artisans of Japan (Hardie Grant, 2019)

DIGBY STRIDIRON, chef of Ama at Cane Bay in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

LUIS VARGAS, founder and CEO of travel company Modern Adventure, in Portland, Oregon 

CLARISSA WEI, Hong Kong–based food writer and reporter for Goldthread

KRIS YENBAMROONG, chef of Night + Market and Night + Market Song in Los Angeles

With help from the chefs behind the World’s Best Restaurants of 2019 and the international team of editors from Travel + Leisure and Food & Wine

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Besha’s first round of travel was organized by Skylark (skylark.com), founded by T+L A-List travel advisor and air travel specialist Paul Tumpowsky (p@skylark.com; 212-759-5275).

This story originally appeared on travelandleisure.com.