French restaurant ranking La Liste makes no apology for Guy Savoy's hold on top spot

Restaurant Guy Savoy

No one asks tennis champion Rafael Nadal to stop playing tennis and make room for other winners. Why should the food world do the same for chefs? 

That's the reasoning offered by La Liste president Philippe Faure, after revealing that Restaurant Guy Savoy topped this year's restaurant ranking for the fourth year in a row. The Paris restaurant shares the No. 1 position with last year's winner Le Bernardin in New York and two Tokyo restaurants, Sugalabo and Ryugin. 

"It's less sexy, but we're not going to change the rules for the sake of changing," he said. 

Faure is referring to recent changes made at the World's 50 Best Restaurants Awards, which had long been criticized for rewarding the same restaurants every year with few surprises. In response, the group announced plans to retire list-toppers to another category, so that every year a new winner will take the top spot. 

But in a comparison between top chefs and record-holding tennis champs, Faure said credit should be given where credit is due and that policies at La Liste wouldn't be changed for a more exciting headline. 

It's one of several ways La Liste is trying to differentiate itself from its rival, the World's 50 Best. Launched in 2015 as an anti-World's 50 Best Restaurants awards -- one of several programs launched in recent years in protest of the influential and controversial awards -- La Liste is based on an algorithm that claims to use science and hard numbers to come up with a definitive ranking.

Reviews from more than 640 guidebooks and publications across 195 countries are aggregated and converted into a standard grade from 0 to 100, according to conversion tables specific to each guidebook.  

Chefs are then asked to score the individual guidebooks and sources on a "trustworthiness index" from 0 to 10.   

For each restaurant, editors then calculate the average standardized score, weighted by the title's trustworthiness result. Online reviews from diners are also given 10 percent weighting for the final score. 

- 'Bonus points' for farm-to-table and original cuisine -

New this year, La Liste co-founder Joerg Zipprick said the ranking also rewards chefs who espouse a sustainable farm-to-table ethos with "bonus points" -- particularly those who either have farms on-site or near their restaurants.

Likewise, in an age of social media and copycat gastronomy, Zipprick said bonus points are also awarded to restaurants that serve authentic, original cuisine. 

"Nowadays, you can go from Paris to Auckland to Chennai and eat the same dishes," he said. "We're seeing that many chefs are creating new dishes not for the taste, but for the visual aspect, for social media. The result is a lack of authenticity and original ideas." 

Organizers at La Liste are also trying to widen the gap between it, the World's 50 Best, Yelp, Zagat and Michelin by carving out a spot in the mobile app market. 

While Michelin is present in about 35 markets worldwide, La Liste has a database of 20,000 geolocated restaurants in 195 countries within the app, giving it an edge over the competition as a truly international restaurant guide, Faure said.

Looking for a restaurant in Mogadishu, Somalia? The app offers three suggestions. 

Restaurants are also color-coded with gold representing addresses in the top 1000 list; silver representing "excellent restaurants" by local standards; and "food gems" in red.

Meanwhile, chef Savoy said the emergence of rankings like La Liste are a sign of a healthy food scene and offer insight into the evolution of contemporary gastronomy around the world. 

"This distinction is fantastic because the list is not based on a jury, the list is based on hundreds of the most authoritative guidebooks, press reviews and articles from around the world, so this title feels really legitimate." 

Zipprick also credited Savoy's cement-hold on the top spot partly to the 2015 relocation of the restaurant to the Monnaie de Paris (the Paris mint) -- which offers views of the Seine -- and to favorable reviews written outside France. 

"Guy Savoy is one of the rare restaurants where you find great reviews written by critics from all over the world." 

Rounding out the top five spots on the ranking are Kitcho Arashiyama in Kyoto; L'Arpège in Paris; Le Louis XV-Alain Ducasse in Monaco; and Martin Berasategui in Lasarte-Oria, Spain.

The full list of top 1000 restaurants will be released in Paris on Monday.