Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants director on Seoul food

William Drew, director of content for 50 Best, tells David Ho why Seoul is the host for the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards

William Drew, director of content for 50 Best

It was recently announced that Danny Yip, the founder of Hong Kong restaurant The Chairman, would be the recipient of the Icon Award – Asia 2024. This win was the result of voting by 318 members of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy.

Back in 2021, The Chairman in Hong Kong became the first Chinese restaurant to be crowned No. 1 on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list. “I am extremely fortunate to have an exceptional and stable team, both in the kitchen and at the front. The majority of them have been with us since we opened or for more than 10 years. Alone I can do so little, together we can do so much. This award is a tremendous honour, not just for me but also for The Chairman team. It serves as a motivator, consistently reminding us of the greater heights we can reach in the days ahead,” Yip says.

Yip is set to receive his award at the Grand InterContinental Seoul Parnas, Seoul, South Korea on 26 March 2024. This marks the first time Korea is playing host to the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. William Drew, director of content for 50 Best, tells us why South Korea’s capital was the right choice and how he has seen the city’s dining scene evolve.

Why was Seoul picked as the destination for the unveiling of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2024

We are delighted to partner with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA) and Seoul Metropolitan Government to bring Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants to Seoul for the first time in 50 Best’s history. Seoul has long been establishing itself as a culinary hotspot within Asia and to an international audience, and we can think of no better place in which to bring Asia’s restaurant community together. In March 2024, visitors will have the opportunity to experience the superb restaurants, heritage and culture of Seoul, casting a spotlight on the city as an exciting culinary hotspot, and we cannot wait.

What factors make Seoul such a “culinary hotspot” as you call it?

There has been a huge surge in global recognition for Korea gastronomy, with the wonders of hansik spreading to cities as far as New York, Singapore and Copenhagen. The success of Korean restaurants historically in the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list – and now in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list – reflects the tremendous popularity of Korean culture globally. Within the wide range of culinary offerings from traditional marketplaces to fine dining establishments and bars in Seoul, the 2024 edition of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants will offer an opportunity for the continent’s culinary community to come together and explore the city’s delights.

The red carpet from last year’s ceremony.

As someone who has been tracking the F&B scene for a long time, please tell us how you’ve seen Seoul’s dining scene evolve over the years.

Around the world, we are seeing surging interest in cultural cuisines, and that is very much due to the emergence of a generation of young, talented and extremely ‘hungry’ chefs. These chefs have travelled across culinary continents and accumulated learnings from chef-mentors around the world. Today, they are returning to their roots in search of their own culinary identities. I believe Korea is undergoing that same path in terms of the development of its dining scene. Seoul in particular, has seen an increasing presence on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants lists since 2015, and that is proof that the city is entering into very exciting times on the culinary front. Even out of Korea, Korean-influenced cuisine is making some serious waves, with restaurants such as Nae:Um (No. 83 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023) and Meta (No. 17 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023) in Singapore making their mark.

What do you look for in a restaurant? How do Seoul eateries fulfil them for you?

50 Best ranks restaurants according to the votes of its Academy of global experts. One of the things that makes 50 Best special is there is no set criteria for what constitutes best. We don’t believe there is, or should be, a type of restaurant that features on the 50 Best lists. We simply ask voters to select their best restaurant experiences and we collate their votes. Restaurants do not have to sell a certain product, they do not have to have been open a certain number of years and they do not have to have won any other culinary accolades. Any type of restaurant in the world is eligible to be voted for by our Academy so long as it has been open during the voting period and has not topped the global ranking previously. The Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023 list included four restaurants in Seoul: Mosu (No. 15) Onjium (No. 23), Mingles (No. 28), Born & Bred (No. 47) and 3 entries in the extended 51-100 list.

Please give us some recommendations for our next visit to Seoul!

I would not want to be seen to be favouring one restaurant over another, for obvious reasons, and I have not been to all the restaurants in Seoul! However, I can say I am looking forward to having tteokbokki and trying the ‘naengmyeon’ cold noodles!

Also see: Sam Aisbett brings creative fine dining to Ho Chi Minh City with Akuna

In this Story: #dining