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INTERVIEW WITH WILLIAM DREW, DIRECTOR OF CONTENT OF 50 BEST

INTERVIEW WITH WILLIAM DREW, DIRECTOR OF CONTENT OF 50 BEST

//Words: José Berrocoso//

A 50 Best Restaurants guide for the MENA region is debuting in 2022

“The diversity of cuisines and restaurants across this wide region will ensure this new list is a vital addition to the international gastronomic landscape”

50 Best will launch the highly anticipated Middle East & North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants, with the awards being held in Abu Dhabi in February 2022, shining a much-deserved spotlight on the region as a world-class culinary destination.

The launch of Middle East & North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants will mark the first time since 2013 – when both Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants and Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants were established – that 50 Best unveils a new regional restaurants list and awards programme.

The event programme will be hosted in the UAE capital in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi from 4th-11th February, as part of the Abu Dhabi Culinary Calendar, with the gala awards ceremony taking place on Monday 7th February. The inaugural list of Middle East & North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants will be revealed in a live countdown, along with a series of special awards, culminating in the announcement of The Best Restaurant in the Middle East & North Africa 2022. The ranking will reflect the best restaurant experiences collated from 250 voters, made up of anonymous restaurant experts from 19 countries across the entire region.

We sit with William Drew, Director of Content of 50 Best to learn more about the upcoming debut of Middle East & North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2022.

CityPages Magazine: What factors led to the launch of the Middle East & North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants list?
William Drew: Following the success of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants over the last 19 years and the establishment of both Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants and Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants, 50 Best is launching Middle East & North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants to shine a much-deserved spotlight on the region as a world-class culinary destination. The launch of Middle East & North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants will mark the first time since 2013 – when both Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants and Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants were established – that 50 Best unveils a new regional restaurants list and awards programme so this is hugely exciting for us at 50 Best and for the MENA region.

CPM: What makes the culinary landscape in the MENA region so exciting?
WD: Over the last decade or more, the region has attracted major international chefs to open high-profile restaurants, which has in turn led to the more recent rise of home-grown talent, now gradually coming to the fore. Equally, countries such as Lebanon, Morocco and Israel are steeped in sophisticated and wonderfully evolved food cultures of their own and we want all these countries and beyond to receive the recognition they deserve. Within the UAE, Abu Dhabi has been establishing itself as a culinary force for some time, with the launch of initiatives such as Abu Dhabi Culinary Season, the Emirati Cuisine Programme, and the Abu Dhabi Food Festival, providing broader cultural and hospitality experiences for both visitors and residents alike. This helped make it a positive choice to be the host city for 50 Best’s new regional restaurant awards programme.

CPM: What impact do you expect the list to have on the region’s F&B industry? Especially in Kuwait?
WD: The MENA region’s rich, diverse and delicious culinary portfolio will gain some of the global attention it surely deserves, and Kuwait will be an important part of that. We are confident that Middle East & North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants will inspire people to travel from within the region and internationally to visit in order to explore the culinary gems put in the spotlight by the awards and its surrounding events programme. A series of live Chef Masterclasses will be open to food-loving consumers on a ticketed basis as part of the awards programme spotlighting local chef talent, the further details of which will be revealed in due course.

CPM: What does It take to make it onto the MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants?
WD: The ranking provides an annual snapshot of the opinions and experiences of regional experts, therefore if diners have been experiencing the outstanding characteristics of a restaurant, then it will be reflected in future results. What constitutes ‘best’ is up to each voter to decide; as everyone’s tastes are different, so is everyone’s idea of what constitutes a great restaurant experience. Of course, the quality of food is going to be central, as is the service – but the style of both, the surroundings, atmosphere and indeed the price level are each more or less important for each different individual. Restaurants do not have to fit a certain criterion.

CPM: Can you give us a bit of information on the voting process and how it works?
WD: The inaugural ranking for Middle East & North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants will reflect the best restaurant experiences based on the votes of more than 200 voters, made up of anonymous restaurant experts (including chefs, restaurateurs, food/restaurant journalists and well-travelled gourmets) from 19 countries across the entire region. Members of the 50 Best organization do not vote and do not control the composition of the resulting list; that is the collective role of the voting Academy. This means that restaurants cannot apply to be on the list. Equally, no sponsor has any influence on the voting process.

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