Arpège, Paris, France
There are few chefs who have been at the vanguard of cuisine longer than Alain Passard. Always leading trends, Passard opted to switch his restaurant’s focus to vegetable- and plant-based gastronomy long before it reflected the zeitgeist and his move to growing crops at his own smallholding to supply his restaurant pre-empted the field-to-fork movement that so many have chosen to follow. Receiving this year’s Chefs’ Choice Award, sponsored by Estrella Damm and voted for by his fellow 50 Best chefs, marks another highlight in an already glittering career.
His restaurant Arpège – set in Paris’s glamorous 7th arrondissement, a fork’s throw from Les Invalides – is an establishment that helps define fine dining. Open for 30 years, it has operated at Michelin three-star level for more than decades and has been marked as a temple of forward-thinking food since he bought the restaurant (then-named l’Archetstrate) from celebrated chef and mentor Alain Senderens in 1986.
In 2001 Passard announced that Arpège – until then known for its masterful meat cookery – was turning vegetarian, and although meat has since returned to the restaurant in smaller quantities, vegetables still take centre stage. Seasonality is at the menu’s core and diners will book months in advance to experience Passard’s take on the first of the season’s white asparagus and autumn’s initial truffle harvest. Seemingly standard produce is treated with the same reverence as the most decadent ingredients, elevating the simple to the sublime.
As the only peer-voted award in the World’s 50 Best programme, there’s arguably no bigger accolade than the Chefs’ Choice Award, sponsored by Estrella Damm. In 2016, Passard was the recipient of The Diners Club Lifetime Achievement Award at The World’s 50 Best Restaurants and the restaurant has been a mainstay in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list since its inception. For a consistency and vision that is near unrivalled in the international food scene, Passard is a more-than-worthy winner of this title.