The first ever World Restaurant Awards crushes hard on South Africa

Wolfgat in South Africa won restaurant of the year.
Wolfgat in South Africa won restaurant of the year.
Image: World Restaurant Awards
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The World Restaurant Awards held its first-ever ceremony in Paris on Feb. 18. With a gender-balanced panel of judges from around the world, the new awards were designed to recognize fresh talent and intended to reflect the eateries and trends most captivating chefs, sommeliers, foragers, and food writers right now.

Wolfgat, a South African restaurant that seats 20 diners a night, and the lone nominee from Africa, won two awards—best Off-Map Destination and Restaurant of the Year, a prize that many speculated would go to industry favorite Noma.  Located in Paternoster, one of South Africa’s oldest fishing villages, and about a two hour drive from Cape Town, the restaurant has only six staff members and sources most of its ingredients locally.

France’s Refugee Food Festival was honored as the Event of the Year, and Food for Soul, an Italian organization that addresses food waste and social isolation through community meals, won the award for Ethical Thinking.

The awards are divided into two different categories. The first, “Big Plates,” leans more traditional, highlighting restaurants, stand-out dishes, and wine lists, while also calling attention to places that build an environmental and social mission into their operations. “Small Plates” awards will change from year to year, and point to trends in a playful way, like presenting French chef Alain Ducasse, who has won nearly every culinary accolade that exists, with the Tattoo-free Chef award.

Created by IMG, an international events company, with Joe Warwick, co-founder of the 50 Best Restaurants List as creative director, and the Andrea Petrini, one of the most influential restaurant writers in the world as the chair of the judging panel, these awards are less about creating a rigid system of ranking and rating, and more focused on reflecting the ever-evolving global conversation around food.

Here is the complete list of winners:

Here are the winners for 2019:

Big Plates

Arrival of the Year: Inua—Tokyo, Japan

Atmosphere of the Year: Vespertine—Los Angeles, US

Collaboration of the Year: Paradiso and Gortnanain Farm—Cork, Ireland

Enduring Classic: La Mère Brazier—Lyon, France

Ethical Thinking: Food For Soul—Italy

Event of the Year: Refugee Food Festival—Paris, France

Forward Drinking: Mugaritz—San Sebastian, Spain

House Special: Cacio e pepe cooked in pig’s bladder, Lido 84—Lombardy, Italy

No Reservations Required: Mocoto—Sao Paolo, Brazil

Off-Map Destination: Wolfgat—Paternoster, South Africa

Original Thinking: Le Clarence—Paris, France

Restaurant of the Year: Wolfgat—Paternoster, South Africa

Small Plates

Instagram Account of the Year: Alain Passard—Paris, France

Long-Form Journalism: Lisa Abend, “The Food Circus,” Fool Magazine

Red-Wine Serving Restaurant: Noble Rot—London, UK

Tattoo-free Chef: Alain Ducasse—Paris, France

Trolley of the Year: Ballymaloe House—Cork, Ireland

Tweezer-free Kitchen: Bo.Lan—Bangkok, Thailand