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French restaurant run by Argentine chef crowned world's best

China Daily | Updated: 2019-07-05 08:05

France's Mirazur restaurant - whose Argentine chef Mauro Colagreco draws inspiration from the sea, mountains and his own garden - was recently crowned the world's best by an influential trade list, beating contenders from Denmark and Spain.

The accolade came just months after Colagreco was awarded a third Michelin star and was the first time a French establishment has triumphed in the World's 50 Best Restaurant list.

"I'm on cloud nine, and I'm waiting to come back down," Colagreco said as he collected the award for his restaurant in the French Riviera town of Menton. "I don't have enough words to express my joy."

The awards ceremony - which took place in Singapore, marking the first time they have been held in Asia - saw Noma in Copenhagen pick up the award for second place, while the third spot was given to Asador Etxebarri in Spain.

The highest-ranked Asian restaurant was Gaggan in Bangkok, taking fourth place overall. Fifth was Geranium in Copenhagen, and sixth was Central in Lima, also tagged as best in South America.

This year was a departure as the top restaurant award has gone to Spain seven times, the most of any country. Last year, Italy's Osteria Francescana won, and Mirazur took the third place.

After his victory was announced, Colagreco took to the stage joined by his Brazilian wife carrying a banner representing four flags - those of Argentina, Brazil, France and Italy.

"To my team, thank you. You deserve it after all these years. Thank you to my friends for supporting us during these last 13 years," he said, during an emotional acceptance speech.

Colagreco is the only foreign chef working in France to have been awarded three Michelin stars. He opened the restaurant in 2006 and was awarded his first star the following year, before getting his second in 2012.

The Argentine-born chef moved to France in 2001 and worked with Bernard Loiseau, Alain Passard and Alain Ducasse before spending a year at Le Grand Vefour.

He says that he ended up in Menton by chance.

"The owner of the place was the perfect stereotype of an Englishman on the Cote d'Azur, a white linen outfit and a Panama hat," he says.

"He saw that I had no money, but he wanted to know what an Argentine was doing in Menton ... He rented me his restaurant for a ridiculously low sum."

This "gave me a lot of freedom" to experiment, he says.

The early days were tough, but since being awarded its second star, the restaurant has seen its popularity grow.

Mirazur, located in southeastern France near the Italian border, offers dishes made with vegetables and other ingredients from Colagreco's own backyard farm, as well as fresh seafood.

Despite his growing fame, Colagreco says he wants to "keep his feet firmly on the ground".

For their first foray into Asia, the award's organizers picked Singapore, which is well-known for its buzzing culinary scene.

However, despite the change in locale, Europe continued to dominate with 25 restaurants named among the best 50, including seven in the top 10. Asia accounted for seven, with the United States and Latin America containing six, respectively.

The awards are organized by British magazine Restaurant, which is owned by William Reed Media.

They were launched in 2002 and are now as coveted as Michelin stars, although the methodology used to select the best restaurants has faced criticism, especially from several French chefs who say it remains unclear.

There are no criteria for putting a restaurant on the list, which is based on an anonymous poll of more than 1,000 chefs, restaurant owners, food critics and other industry insiders from around the world.

Each member gets 10 votes, and at least four of those votes have to go to restaurants outside their region.

In the past, the event has been held in Spain, London, New York and Melbourne.

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