For the first four years after the first list was issued, they merely shrugged off criticism (like this, and this, and this). About a year ago, prior to the awards in Mexico City, William Reed published a section on their website that provided a detailed description about the manner in which the restaurants are selected, including a very attractive and colorful chart that makes it all look very official. They even added a blurb at the end of this explanation stating that the votes were counted by the accounting firm of Deloitte & Touche. Hmmm? Sounds like the Academy Awards absent Jack Nicholson in the audience.
Let me summarize the methodology. According to the explanation, there is an “Academy” of voters in Latin America consisting of 252 restaurant “experts” (63 in each of four regions). “The panel is made up of food writers and critics (33%), chefs and restaurateurs (34%) and highly regarded ‘foodies’ (described elsewhere as “well-traveled gourmets”)(33%). Each panelist has seven votes. Of the seven votes, at least three must be used to recognize restaurants outside of their home country. Academy panelists must have eaten in the restaurants they nominate in the last 18 months – and are asked to confirm this fact for each of their nominations.
This would mean that each of the 252 panelists, which include Latin Americans that are journalists (not a high-paid job in Latin America), hobbyist culinary writers (i.e. bloggers), most of whom have low to moderate paying jobs, chefs (again, not a high-paid position in Latin America), would have to have traveled outside their home country, and eaten in at least three restaurants outside of their home country. In theory, for the votes to have any relevance the panelists would have had to eat at many more restaurants to be able to make a valid comparison and cast a legitimate vote.
I personally know several of the chefs at these and other Latin American restaurants. Most work long hours (12 hours or more per day) and rarely travel outside of the country, save the one trip they take per year to attend the World’s 50 Best awards held in various cities each year. At the time of writing this article, I have no statistical data either proving or disproving this, but based on my knowledge of the groups from which these panelists are extracted there is little or no chance that 256 panelists met this requirement.
In fact, I doubt if there are more than a handful of people in the entire world that have been to seven different restaurants in at least two separate Latin American countries during the preceding year. And the chance that several hundred Latin American chefs, restaurateurs, and food critics have done it, is slim to none.
ing I’ve said in this essay is scientific nor based on empirical data. It’s one man’s take on the subject. But I really don’t see how anyone could not question a list that ranks the restaurant, El Baqueano, as the 13th best restaurant in all of Latin America.
I look forward to gathering information that will discredit the validity of the list and the claimed “Academy” and add a little meat to the bones I’ve served up here. I’ll serve up the full cut of meat at a later date. And I look forward to providing my take in a future post about which restaurants we think should be on the list, that aren’t. All that’s coming between now and April of 2017, when we add the content for Peru to our website, and I will have sampled the fares of another half-dozen of the restaurants on the infamous list.