No Dubai winners at inaugural World Restaurant Awards
A new global food destination was crowned this week, and it isn't in New York, Paris, Tokyo, or Mexico City. It's in a fishing village called Paternoster on the Western Cape of South Africa. Paternoster is home to Wolfgat, which was just named "Restaurant of the Year" at the inaugural World Restaurant Awards.
However, Alain Ducasse one of the newest celebrity chefs to open a Dubai restaurant, is among the winners.
Wolfgat is a small, 20-seat restaurant hosted inside a 130-year-old "oceanside cottage," where chef and owner Kobus van der Merwe offers a seasonal, seven-course tasting menu made from locally sourced and foraged ingredients. According to the restaurant's website, that means "sustainable seafood, local lamb and venison, and seasonal veldkos...enhanced by wild herbs, seaweeds from the local rock pools, and pickings from the garden."
A two-hour drive from Cape Town's City Centre, it is seemingly as out of the way as you could go for fine dining; perhaps unsurprisingly, Wolfgat also took home the award for "Off-Map Destination."
The judges praised Wolfgat's menu for being "perfectly balanced between creativity and accessibility"—that's impressive, considering van der Merwe, a catering school dropout, launched his restaurant just three years ago alongside locals who had no formal restaurant training.
If you're hoping to get a seat anytime soon, good luck: Wolfgat takes reservations online and currently appears to be booked solid through May. But no one would blame you for putting Cape Town on your travel list, which starts its wine harvest in March, hosts the "World's Most Beautiful Marathon" in April, and offers endless cultural and sightseeing activities in a city that looks almost too beautiful to be real.
The World Restaurant Awards were created to introduce more inclusive, representative awards to the food world, where recognition tends to skew male and white more often than not. To do so, a panel of 100 judges was formed, split 50-50 between men and women. But the results again tended to skew white and male, and not all critics are pleased. Regardless, it’s hopefully a step towards better conversations about whose food is worthy of celebrating.
Check out the rest of the World Restaurant Awards winners below, which include L.A.'s Vespertine for its atmosphere, and the legendary Alain Ducasse simply for being a tattoo-free chef.
The World Restaurant Awards 2019 Winners
Restaurant of Year: Wolfgat, South Africa
Original Thinking: Le Clarence, France
Off-Map Destination: Wolfgat, South Africa
No Reservations Required: Mocotó, Brazil
House Special: Lido 84 (Cacio e Pepe), Italy
Forward Drinking: Mugaritz, Spain
Event of the Year: Refugee Food Festival, Various locations
Ethical Thinking: Refettorio (Food for Soul), Various locations
Collaboration of the Year: Paradiso X Gortnanairn, Ireland
Atmosphere: Vespertine, USA
Enduring Classic: La Mère Brazier, France
Arrival of the Year: Inua, Japan
Tweezer-Free Kitchen: Bo.Lan, Thailand
Trolley of the Year: Ballymaloe House, Ireland
Tattoo-Free Chef: Alain Ducasse, France
Instagram Account: Alain Passard, France
Long-Form Journalism: Lisa Abend (Fool Magazine), U.S.A. + Sweden