(CNN) — If there’s ever a bad night to eat out — not including that time you ordered those mussels — it’s the one when all the planet’s top chefs skip work to find out if their restaurants have finally been named the world’s best.
This year, culinary masterminds from five continents gathered in the Spanish port city of Bilbao for an award ceremony to name the 50 best fine dining joints for 2018 and, most importantly, crown a champion.
For 2018, the top prize went to Italy’s Osteria Francescana and head chef Massimo Bottura, whose dazzling and sometimes surreal reworkings of classic Italian recipes saw him return to the top spot he first held in 2016.
There were few other surprises in the top three of the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards, with last year’s third placers and 2015 winner El Celler de Can Roca, taking second place and France’s Mirazur, fourth last year, take third.
Eleven Madison Park — the 2017 winner which spent part of the year closed for renovations — was bumped down to fourth.
“We built this together,” Bottura told the packed auditorium of the Palacio Euskalduna in Bilbao, where many of his contemporaries were gathered. “I’m not going to disappoint you, I’m going to show the world that chefs in 2018 are much more than the sum of their
15. White Rabbit (Moscow): Chef Vladimir Mukhin creates luxurious spin on classic Russian dishes at White Rabbit. The “Alice in the Wonderland”-inspired restaurant has a spectacular 360-degree view of Moscow.
14. Steirereck (Vienna): Vienna restaurant Steirereck offers modern Austrian cuisine made with fresh ingredients from the chef’s own farm.
13. Pujol (Mexico City): Celebrity chef-owner Enrique Olvera serves up Mexican haute cuisine in Mexico City’s upscale Polanco district. The signature dish is the Mole Madre — reheated for more than 1,200 days.
12. Blue Hill at Stone Barns (Pocantino Hills, New York), Native New Yorker Dan Barber, who also helms this restaurant in New York state’s Pocantico Hills, also won this year’s Chefs’ Choice Award.
11. Quintonil (Mexico City): A protégée of Pujol’s Enrique Olvera, Jorge Vallejo serves a menu focusing on vegetables and herbs — many of which are picked from the chef’s nearby garden.
10. Asador Etxebarri (Biscay, Spain) Spain’s Asador Etxebarri offers creative dishes cooked over a wood-fired barbecue.
9. Mugaritz (San Sebastian, Spain): Led by chef Andoni Luis Aduriz, San Sebastian restaurant Mugaritz serves what’s described as techno-emotional Spanish cuisine.
8. Arpège (Paris): Vegetable master Alain Passard opened L’Arpège in 1986 and received his third Michelin star within a decade
7. Maido (Lima, Peru): At Lima’s Maido, chef Mitsuharu Tsumura blends Peruvian and Japanese cuisines to create his own vision.
6. Central (Lima, Peru): Lima’s Central, helmed by chef Virgilio Martínez Véliz, is the current titleholder of South America’s Best Restaurant.
5. Gaggan (Bangkok): Chef Gaggan Anand opened his eponymous restaurant in the Thai capital in 2010 with a mission and vision to “reinvigorate” Indian cuisine by exploiting contemporary techniques and adding molecular twists to traditional Indian dishes.
4. Eleven Madison Park (New York): Helmed by Swiss-born chef Daniel Humm, last year’s winner spent several months of last years closed for refurbishment, which may have contributed to it falling to fourth place.
3. Mirazur (Menton, France): Mediterranean restaurant Mirazur, run by Argentinian-Italian chef Mauro Colagreco, sits on the French side of the Riviera, just steps from the Italian border.
2. El Celler de Can Roca (Girona, Spain): The winner in 2015, this Girona restaurant is a family affair. Executive chef Joan Roca works with her brothers: pastry chef Jordi and sommelier Josep.
1. Osteria Francescana (Modena, Italy): First crowned winner in 2016, Massimo Bottura’s Modena is back on top for the second time, thanks to the chef’s playful reworkings of Italian cuisine classics.
While European eateries continued to dominate the awards, known as the Oscars of the fine dining world, all five continents were represented, with Bangkok’s Gaggan at five on the list and Lima’s Central at six.
Also notable was the continuing domination of men at the top of the gastronomic game. The World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ prize for female chef of the year is often criticized for its shortcomings in addressing this.
This year’s recipient, Clare Smyth of London’s Core restaurant, took the opportunity to raise the issue while also speaking to wider concerns of welfare among overworked kitchen employees.
“I’m constantly being asked why we have a lack of female chefs, why we don’t see more women represented at the top level … and why don’t we have more diversity,” she said. “I don’t have the answers.”
She said the industry needed to create better working environments and make restaurants an equal and “more human workplace for both men and women.”
“We must draw a line under this and make sure we clear a path for the next generation. I for one can’t wait until we achieve equality and the debate moves on.”
Other significant prizes included the Lifetime Achievement Award, which went to Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio of Astrid y Gastón. France’s Cédric Grolet won Best Pastry Chef and Spain’s Azurmendi took a prize for sustainability.
According to organizers, the results were compiled from an “independent” voting panel of 1,000 judges that were subject to adjudication.
The prize ceremony began with tributes to culinary legends who have passed in the preceding year. Among them Gualtiero Marchesi, the first Italian chef ever to receive three Michelin stars, and French “pope of gastronomes” Paul Bocuse.
Anthony Bourdain, the CNN presenter, writer and chef who often railed against the kind of fine dining establishments celebrated by the awards, was also remembered.
“His honesty, his determination and his stubborn truth telling changed our industry for the better,” said William Drew, group editor of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
1. Osteria Francescana (Modena, Italy) *best restaurant in Europe*
2. El Celler de Can Roca (Girona, Spain)
3. Mirazur (Menton, France)
4. Eleven Madison Park (New York City) *best restaurant in North America*
5. Gaggan (Bangkok) *best restaurant in Asia*
6. Central (Lima, Peru) *best restaurant in South America*
7. Maido (Lima, Peru)
8. Arpege (Paris, France)
9. Mugaritz (San Sebastian, Spain)
10. Asador Etxebarri (Axpe, Spain)
11. Quintonil (Mexico City, Mexico)
12. Blue Hill at Stone Barns (Pocantico Hills, New York)
13. Pujol (Mexico City, Mexico)
14. Steirereck (Vienna, Austria)
15. White Rabbit (Moscow, Russia)
16. Piazza Duomo (Alba, Italy)
17. Den (Tokyo, Japan) *highest climber*
18. Disfrutar (Barcelona, Spain) *highest new entry*
19. Geranium (Copenhagen)
20. Attica (Melboure, Australia)
21. Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée (Paris, France)
22. Narisawa (Tokyo, Japan)
23. Le Calandre (Rubano, Italy)
24. Ultraviolet (Shanghai, China)
25. Cosme (New York City)
26. Le Bernardin (New York City)
27. Boragó (Santiago, Chile)
28. Odette (Singapore) *new entry*
29. Alléno Paris au Pavillon Ledoyen (Paris, France)
30. D.O.M. (São Paulo, Brazil)
31. Arzak (San Sebastian, Spain)
32. Tickets (Barcelona, Spain)
33. The Clove Club (London, UK)
34. Alinea (Chicago)
35. Maaemo (Oslo, Norway) *new entry*
36. Reale (Castel Di Sangro, Italy)
37. Restaurant Tim Raue (Berlin, Germany)
38. Lyle’s (London) *new entry*
39. Astrid y Gastón (Lima, Peru)
40. Septime (Paris, France)
41. Nihonryori RyuGin (Tokyo, Japan)
42. Ledbury (London, UK)
43. Azurmendi (Larrabetzu, Spain) *sustainable restaurant award*
44. Mikla (Istanbul, Turkey) *new entry*
45. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal (London, UK)
46. Saison (San Francisco)
47. Schloss Schauenstein (Fürstenau, Switzlerand) *new entry*
48. Hiša Franko (Kobarid, Slovenia) *new entry*
49. Nahm (Bangkok, Thailand)
50. Test Kitchen (Cape Town, South Africa) *Africa’s best restaurant*
By Barry Neild, CNN