Gaston Acurio from Peru won First prize
Early in September, at the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurant awards ceremony in Lima, the pisco sours and champagne flowed as a gathering of local and international restaurant professionals toasted to Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio, whose flagship restaurant, Astrid & Gaston, was named the best in South and Central America. Mr. Acurio emerged from the event with double accolades, after receiving the Lifetime Achievement award for his role in promoting the food culture of Peru.
Coming in at No. 2 was Brazil’s D.O.M. , the contemporary Amazonian restaurant helmed by Alex Atala in Sao Paulo, followed by Enrique Olvera’s Modernist Mexican restaurant Pujol at No. 3 and cutting-edge Peruvian restaurant Central, overseen by the young, rising-star chef Virgilio Martinez, at No. 4. The No. 5 slot went to Mani in Sao Paulo, where husband-and-wife team Helena Rizzo and Daniel Redondo serve elegant, modern Brazilian dishes using local ingredients. Ms. Rizzo also took home the trophy for “Best Female Chef.” She was joined in the top 10 by another female chef, Roberta Sudbrack, whose eponymous restaurant Roberta Sudbrack in Rio, ranked No.10.
"A world of totally new flavors" - Rene Redzepi
The event marked a turning point for gastronomy in Latin America, a region described recently by Noma’s Rene Redzepi as “a world of totally new flavors.” Although the rapid economic development in countries such as Brazil, Peru, and Chile has given rise to a flourishing fine-dining scene, Latin America has remained “relatively undiscovered,” remarked William Drew, of organizing body William Reed Business Media.
Latin America debuts on the world culinary map
The Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurant awards program is the second regional offshoot of the influential World’s 50 Best Restaurant list. Unlike the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards, which took place earlier this year in Singapore, the voting system in Latin America was completely separate from the global system used for the other lists -- a detail that explains D.O.M.’s No. 2 ranking, despite having received the title of “Best Restaurant in Latin America” at the World’s 50 Best Restaurant awards ceremony in London.
While Brazil, Peru, and Mexico all featured prominently, the country with the highest number of restaurants on the list was Argentina (led by Tegui at No.9). The important thing about the awards, notes Chilean journalist Pilar Rodriguez, is that the event has “put Latin America on the culinary map.” The buzz around the awards is sure to draw international attention to local talent as well as exciting new ingredients from largely unexplored regions in the Amazon, the Andes, and Patagonia.
text by Melinda Joe / photographs by Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants Awards