Besides all the eating and drinking

The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019 awards ceremony took place in Asia for the very first time last night (Jun 25), and Singapore, specifically Marina Bay Sands, was chosen as the grounds for all the pizzazz. It’s a pretty big deal—the Oscars of the culinary world, they call it.

It’s no surprise then, that the Singapore Tourism Board is so keen on bringing the ceremony here. Celebrity chefs, food industry bigwigs and gourmands from around the world descended upon our shores for a whole week of activities, generating plenty of buzz and money spent on expensive feasting.

International media the likes of CNN, The Guardian and Eater were all present too. Perhaps, with their clout, it kinda helps cement the perspective that Singapore is a global culinary destination. This is all great for our island nation.

But what wasn’t great is that only one restaurant in Singapore, Odette, made it onto the list at 18th place. It’s still a win (Julien Royer recently gave us his dining recommendations), especially since they’ve climbed up from 28th spot last year. But surely, there must be plenty more restaurants here deserving a spot too. The only other restaurant in Singapore that blipped on the radar is Burnt Ends, coming in at 59th place this year.

Why bring the awards ceremony here when the local representation, and for the whole of Asia for that matter, is so poor? While the World’s 50 Best Restaurants have always been criticized for having too many tasting menu restaurants from Europe and North America on the list, the 2019 edition being held in Asia for the inaugural time seemed like the best opportunity to correct that.

In the top 50, only one restaurant from China (Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet), one from Hong Kong (The Chairman), two from Japan (Den and Narisawa) and two from Thailand (Suhring and soon-to-close Gaggan) are awarded. Including Odette from Singapore, that completes the entire Asia contingent.

Where are the many great restaurants from India, South Korea and Taiwan? Perhaps the voters, who are made up of fellow chefs and supposedly well-travelled food critics—over 1000 of them this year—need to spread their wings (and broaden their palates) more. No restaurants from Australia made the cut either. Is it because it’s too far to travel Down Under?

As much as the argument that the World’s 50 Best is really about culinary greats providing the ultimate in peer validation to other chefs, the fact remains that if you’re ranking restaurants on a listicle that literally says World's Best, you’re gonna get a lot of questions asked. Or just don’t call it a World’s Best if it’s only really a Best in Europe/North America list.

For now, we can only hope voters will make next year’s one a better reflection of our globe’s culinary diversity. And when the World’s 50 Best Bars awards ceremony comes to Singapore in 2021, it’ll be a time for our bars to properly shine.

See all World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019 winners here.