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World’s 50 Best 2021: Cosme Remains in Top U.S. Spot Despite Loss of Star Chef

Plus, Le Bernardin and Atomix also make the top 50 this year

Cosme Meringue
Cosme’s famed corn meringue.
Daniel Krieger/Eater

The latest World’s 50 Best Restaurants list — the annual, controversial compilation of mostly Eurocentric tasting menu restaurants — was announced today after a pause in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Three NYC restaurants made the list this year. Chef Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin, the esteemed Midtown seafood palace, came in at No. 44, moving down considerably from its spot at 36 back in 2019. Meanwhile, Korean fine dining destination Atomix joined the top 50 lineup for the first time, coming in at No. 43 (previously it was at No. 119).

Back in 2019, Cosme was given the No. 23 spot, making it at the time the highest ranking restaurant amongst U.S. contenders. This year, it remains the highest spot in the U.S. Despite star chef Daniela Soto-Innes’ departure from Cosme (and its sister spot, Atla) last winter — and the Mexican food destination’s lengthy hiatus during the pandemic — the restaurant nevertheless moved up a slot this year to No. 22. Previously, back in 2019, Soto-Innes had also been given the much-discussed, backhanded compliment of “World’s Best Female Chef.”

This year marks the 19th time that the World’s 50 Best list has been published. Following the awards’ pandemic hiatus, the list has reemerged with a few new rules: namely, the stipulation — announced back in 2019 — that any restaurant that held the No. 1 slot previously would be ineligible for consideration on the lists going forward. Of course, this announcement is not without some bending of the rules for the reincarnation of Noma, which is being treated as a new concept despite its previous chokehold on the No. 1 spot from 2010 to 2012, and then again in 2014.

World’s 50 Best has been controversial in the industry and this year seems to be no different. In the past, the list’s efforts to diversify its voting body and candidate pool has been considered among critics to be largely lip-service, despite subtle shifts and new initiatives to the program. In 2019, the list still was mainly dominated by European, high-end restaurants, in dining rooms largely helmed by white male chefs. World’s 50 Best also remains seemingly problematic for the ways in which having the most connected — not to mention costly — PR teams can aid restaurants in gaming access.

In a year that’s been especially harrowing for restaurants just trying to stay afloat, World’s 50 Best mostly stuck to championing past favorites — even those that have stayed closed through much of the pandemic.