William Drew on What it Takes for Manila to be in Asia’s 50 Best List?

Inspiration behind Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants


William Drew: “The inspiration behind Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, which was five years ago, was to celebrate, discover and showcase more Asian restaurants, through that more diverse Asian cuisines, because we realized that Asia, obviously a huge continent, has so many different styles of food and food cultures going on and for much of the world that wasn’t as well known as it might be.”

The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Since we had a certain number of Asian restaurants but then we knew there were many, many more that deserved to be celebrated. So we launched, in 2013, Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants because there was nothing that was doing the whole of Asia, bring the whole of Asia together promoting that celebration and collaboration. And over the years, we built up a strong presence or a strong media following which is really gratifying and fantastic.”

We’re trying to do more and more events such as this 50 Best Talks which is not just about the ranking of the restaurants…

Anton Diaz:  Yes.

William Drew: …important though as that is. That’s almost though a means of promoting more understanding of different cultures and cuisines, more diversity and more collaboration between chefs and different countries.

So in one sense, we’ve love taking ideas from all around the continent, and in another sense, there’s a lot of people going back to their roots and rediscovering the traditional food of their country. The two can exist together.


Fun Dining vs. Fine Dining

Anton Diaz:  What do you think of the trend going into “fun dining versus fine dining?” Do you think there’s a clash there? Or do you think they can co-exist together? 

William Drew: I don’t think there’s a clash anymore because I think traditional fine dining generally is becoming more casual, and more casual places, and street food for example, is going into the restaurant space, not that real fine dining space but more into… Sometimes they get off the street to inspire restaurant.

All those things can co-exist, from street food to casual but premium casual dining to more traditional fine dining, or amazing one of dining experiences with something basic but super tasty. All those things are equally important and these are why we try to celebrate them more.

I don’t think there’s any clash. I think a lot of top chefs will have a fine dining establishment and then another place which is more casual as well. And those are not in comfort, they’re just different for different occasions. As a diner sometimes you want to go specific locations, some place you want to go to, like your favorite place on a Friday night to eat some great food and have a beer.


Manila as a Culinary Hub

Anton Diaz:  You know we have a lot of young chefs or young foodies as an audience for Our Awesome Planet, what do you think Manila needs to do to get to the level of Bangkok? You’ve seen a lot of places, you’ve seen them grow and I’ve seen Manila is getting there. What do you think are like two or three things that Manila needs to get there?

William Drew: I’m sure it will come. I mean, it’s very difficult. There’s no formula. There’s no recipe for getting on the list. It’s more about the culture of, if you think great restaurants is self-fulfilling, the more you have, the more other people would want to try it.

Anton Diaz:   But how do you get to that tipping point?

William Drew: Sometimes the government and tourism authorities can help by supporting the restaurants there, and promoting the restaurants that they think our leaders in the field. I mean, you have some amazing ambassadors like Margarita Fores

Anton DiazYes.

William Drew: …last year, Asia’s Best Female Chef from last year. She’s been a fantastic ambassador for the Philippines or for Philippine Cuisine. People like her and others carry the message, and then more people will come. I mean, you have Madrid Fusion Manila now. Its world brings lots of interest to the country. You have that Spanish connection too.

I think there’s a lot of potential from what I understand from Manila and from the Philippines as a whole. And I have no doubt that over the coming years that, that’s going to come to fruition.


Restaurant Trends

Anton DiazI think because a lot of the young are starting to explore not only the Philippines, but also in the region… Are there a lot of chefs you think coming over from the US and Europe establishing this?

William Drew:Yes. I think chefs travel more now than ever. And young chefs, and young people travel and may be come back to their home country and then open a restaurant. They may be a young chef, might travel or work in Europe or US or other parts of Asia or Indonesia.

Wherever they go they’re learning different stuff. Then frequently they will come back to their home country and open their own restaurant. I mean, learn a lot around the world but focusing on their own country’s cuisine. We’re seeing that a lot.

When people are traveling, they’re exploring. They’re picking up things and then they’re using that to inform how they rediscover or how they reinterpret some traditional cuisine or do their own version of that country’s international cuisine, all sorts of variations.

But yes, I think their travel and collaboration that we try to promote between chefs is really important. The next generation is also communicating of course, digitally and everything. So they see everything around the world as well and that helps you have an international fearlessness. And that’s positive.


50 Best Restaurant List Audience

Anton DiazAnd are you strategically targeting millennials for the list or is there like a target audience in mind?

William Drew: No, there’s not a target audience, in a sense of an age bracket?

Anton DiazYes.

William Drew: We want anyone who loves food. Now it can be someone that is lucky enough to be able to eat in the world’s best restaurants because they travel for their job, or they’re able to travel as a passion, travel and eat as a passion. And there’s also people that would save up for a year to go to one restaurant.

All those people are important, that’s for sure, because lots of people will follow us on our social media channels as well. They maybe don’t get to go to the restaurants but they’re still fascinated by them. Then in five years time maybe they will be able to go to these restaurants.

So everyone from the rich passionate gourmet to the young not-so-wealthy but still foodie, they’re are all our audience, I suppose.


On Home-based Restaurants

Anton Diaz:  Okay. One last question. Would you be targeting like home-based places or just restaurants?

William Drew: What you mean, as in home cooking?

Anton Diaz:  Home cooking-based like there are a lot of like “eat me” places, like in Barcelona, for example, there’s this hidden Gaudi pace. It’s like home-based like is that part of the target or is the restaurant strictly like…

William Drew: You know what. These restaurants were called World’s 50 Best Restaurants or Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, so it has to be a restaurant. However, what constitutes the restaurant can change. If people are asked to pay to go have dinner at someone else’s house, then it’s effectively a restaurant, so we’re not strict about that, this rules.

When we first came to Asia, we made some guidelines so that we thought a street food place which wasn’t kind of a permanent restaurant was not going to be in the list just because we needed some definition, some guidelines.

Anton Diaz: Yes.

William Drew: But if we decide that something constitutes the restaurant even if it’s different from what’s traditionally a restaurant then we can adjust. We can make that adjustment.

Anton Diaz: Okay, that’s it. Congratulations again.

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