List of the lists
Forty-eight hours in Paris? Sometimes, we need a bit of extravaganza. So, last week I did a quick 48-hour visit to Paris. After two years of living in sedentary condition working constantly from home, I think I needed to do something crazy. But do not expect a list of brilliantly packed ideas for where to splurge on champagne and wine or fine dining. Instead, my exploration was about to find out where to go for finesse and perfection, to find out about the best of the best in the world, perhaps for a later splurging trip. This is my only explanation to go to Paris just for one reception, but an important one, the one of La Liste Awards.
La Liste is considered to be the ultimate list of ranking restaurants. The average consumer is sometimes lost in the world of restaurant guides. There is a whole range of systems such as consumer guides, ranking systems and awards, booking platforms, media reviews and culinary competitions such as Bocuse d’Or or Professional awards like the James Beard. They all serve the same purpose. To choose the best, to list the top venues, to find out the most talented chefs. But, of course, each system has its pitfalls. Usually, the ones who do not have a strong investment on PR activities fall short in appearing in these listings. Then there are always rumors about sponsorships. La Liste tries to overcome these pitfalls by relying on a huge database. Unlike other systems based on voting by a group of selected people, it is based on the compilation of hundreds of guidebooks, thousands of media publications, and millions of online reviews, aiming to offer the world’s best restaurant selection for international travelers.
The method is quite complicated. The system runs on a comprehensive database which needs to be backed by continuous research and updating. Reference sources are diverse, ranging from food columns in magazines and newspapers, reviews, and rating systems such as Tripadvisor, Zomato, Foursquare, Google Reviews, and most importantly, other serious guides such as the Michelin Guide. Actually, more than 600 guidebooks and trustworthy publications are put together in the database. Of course, it is not easy to achieve a standard grading score from such diverse sources. So, each review score is converted to a standard grade according to conversion tables created to each specific guidebook. This is based on the “trustworthiness index” of each source, which is checked by asking several thousands of chefs to give their opinions about the sources. The review scores are weighed by each source’s trustworthiness index. Customer reviews are also incorporated to the scoring system, having a 10 percent weighing in the final score which tops up to 100 scores. All collected information is evaluated in the database. There is an editorial manager responsible for these studies and a very large team that evaluates the algorithms and monitors the whole process.
Established in 2015 by founder & CEO Phillippe Faure, ando co-founder and editor in chief Joerg Zipprick, La Liste is the latest player in the game. La Liste managing director Hélène Pietrini was recently in Istanbul to speak at the Gastromasa event. She clearly explained the difference with their scoring system and other popular guides such as the Michelin guide or Gault&Millau. Being the former director of “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants,” she precisely knows about the criticisms that might be forwarded to such ranking systems. In her talk, she gave examples of possible skeptical comments, such as opaqueness, invited and pampered voters obviously not anonymous any more, sponsor influences, or being a small club. Helene especially emphasizes that this team is not of French origin and has freelancers from all over the world, though it was born in France. A quick comparison reveals the difference. The Michelin Guide is available in 35 countries or destinations only. It works with a scoring system. There is a well-equipped secret investigator system. Restaurants are evaluated according to criteria such as the quality of the products, the mastery of the techniques used, taste and flavors and creativity. The criteria is meticulously scrutinized by inspectors, but a leading food critic friend from Italy admitted that France and Spain did better than Italy in their scoring, many venues which definitely deserved to have a star were left out. Another very mediatic popular listing is The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. In their system voters are ranked by asking their best culinary experience from the last 18 months. Some 1,040 people make the elections. Some 33 percent are chefs, 33 percent are food writers, 34 percent are those who are interested in food, namely “foodies.” To be honest, who these food writers and foodies are and how they are selected remains to be a mystery to me up to this day. Having contributed to various international food guides and books, writing two food columns every single week, and being the country editor for TL&CC Guide (Truth, Love & Clean Cutlery), I still do not have a clue.
However, La Liste tries to overcome these obstacles. Firstly, it covers the whole world. Hélène especially emphasizes that this team is not of French origin and has freelancers from all over the world. Pietrini especially emphasizes that the team is not of French origin and has freelancers from all over the world. It collects all the ratings, rankings, media reviews, and consumer reviews to pick the top thousand. Scores are given as a result of the algorithm. There are 27,000 restaurants in the database and the information is constantly updated. When you enter the “Restaurantfinder” application of La List, a map appears in front of you. You can also access the photos of the restaurants you click on the map and all the articles and comments about that particular restaurant. It is important to note that the list is not only for fine dining places. Because of the huge pool of sources worldwide, everyday favorites of local people can end up listed. For example, chef Aylin Yazıcıoğlu managed to get a whopping 95 score for the now closed fine-dining Nicole Restaurant in Istanbul, but also the everyday favorite meyhane of Istanbulites, Asmalı Cavit, is also on the list with 78 points and the usual must-go venue of Antalya, 7 Mehmet restaurant is also listed with 78.50 points. A new fine-dining entry is by chef Fatih Tutak, by his Turk restaurant, having received 81.5 points. I am sure with its ever-expanding database, the list of lists will ever expand and improve, whetting our appetite to explore more and more about the world of gastronomy.