Sydney chef Neil Perry honoured at 50 Best Awards – but Australia again fails to chart

Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas, Nevada

The former head of Rockpool picked up a personal award at a star-studded Las Vegas ceremony

Australian chef Neil Perry has been honoured with the Icon Award by the World’s 50 Best organisation, on a glittering night in Las Vegas when Spanish fine-diner Disfrutar was named the world’s best restaurant.
Perry, who helms the upscale restaurant Margaret in Sydney’s Double Bay, was given the award for a lifetime of contributions to the Australian dining scene, and was on hand in Las Vegas to accept the honour.
“This is really exciting,” Perry said after the ceremony. “Clearly we’ve created enough great memories and experiences for people in our restaurants, but also the deeds we’ve done, the people we’ve trained, the community, the charity work we’ve done – it’s recognition of trying to put your best foot forward every day.
“It’s also fantastic to get that international recognition in Australia. If you look at the icons who have won this award in the last 20 years, it’s a group of the most fabulous people in our industry.”


Update your bucket list

The World’s 50 Best is an annual list of the globe’s finest restaurants, one that has been topped in previous years by the iconic likes of Noma in Copenhagen, Ferran Adria’s El Bulli in Spain, and Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck.

Disfrutar is the fourth Spanish restaurant to top the World’s 50 Best list in the organisation’s 24-year history, and the Barcelona fine-diner, helmed by chefs Oriol Castro, Eduard Xatruch and Mateu Casanas, was lauded for its experimentation and playful nature (one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, “Fear: The Prawn”, requires diners to dig around in a pool of dry-ice vapour in search of their crustacean).

The top five restaurants on the list were this year rounded out by Spain’s Asador Etxebarri at No.2, Table by Bruno Verjus from France at No.3, Madrid fine-diner Diverxo at No.4, followed by Peruvian restaurant Maido at No.5.

The night marked another typically successful showing for Spanish restaurants, with three venues in the top 10, and five in the top 50, the most of any nation. Thailand also had a strong year, with four Bangkok restaurants making the list, topped by Gaggan at No.9.

Other big winners on the night included Hong Kong’s Wing, which was the highest-placed new entry at No.20; another Hong Kong eatery, The Chairman, which was the restaurant that climbed the highest compared to last year; and Brazilian star Janaina Torres, who was awarded Best Female Chef.

The 50 Best list was once again devoid of any entries from Australia, though Sydney chef Josh Niland’s seafood Mecca, Saint Peter, was listed at No.98 in the extended 51 to 100 list, announced a few days beforehand. Other overseas-based Australians also featured in that longlist, with Dave Pynt’s Singaporean barbecue restaurant Burnt Ends coming in a No.68, and Aussie restauranteurs James Henry and Shaun Kelly’s French auberge Le Doyenne named at No.70.

A couple of global icons also surprisingly fell out of the 50 Best list this year: Spain’s Mugaritz dropped 50 places to No.81, and New York seafood palace Le Bernadin fell 27 places to No.71.


Australians in the spotlight

Niland was on hand in Las Vegas during the week of the awards to join an all-star cast on stage for the 50BestTalks, a series of lectures that this year had the theme of “Treasure Hunt”. Niland spoke about “seaconomics”, his take on sustainability through the nose-to-tail eating of fish, with minimal wastage through innovative dishes and butchering techniques.

The Sydney chef was later hailed as one of the “true innovators” by American Daniel Humm, a two-time winner of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants at his New York eatery Eleven Madison Park, in a sign that Saint Peter’s star is on the rise on the world stage.

This year’s 50 Best awards were held at the Wynn Las Vegas, a casino and resort on the city’s famous Strip, and was the culmination of several days of presentations and collaborations by some of the best-known chefs from around the world. The Las Vegas food scene was also in the spotlight, with events at the likes of the Venetian, Caesar’s Palace and the Wynn, including special meals offered by Vegas resident chefs such as Australia’s Tetsuya Wakuda, along with legendary US chef Thomas Keller, and much-loved German import Wolfgang Puck.


Night of nights

The awards night was one of heavy celebration, a rare chance for some of the biggest names in food from around the globe to gather in one place and swap stories and ideas. Niland and Perry worked a room that also featured the likes of Virgilio Martinez, a former winner of the 50 Best list with his Lima restaurant Central, American Thomas Keller, who once topped the list with the French Laundry, and Joan Roca, another former winner with El Celler de Can Roca from Spain.Plenty of those big-name chefs continued on to the official after-party at the Encore Beach Club, which lasted well into the small hours.

The 50 Best list is announced at a different location annually, and is voted on by a panel of 1080 judges from around the world – those judges are comprised in equal parts of chefs and restaurateurs, food media, and renowned food lovers.

Neil Perry
Neil Perry

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