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S7 E2 –Is branding a city a ‘food capital of the world’ absolute rubbish?

There are so many cities that brand themselves as the ‘food capital’ of the world. All based off a host of different criterias. Barry, Jamie and James discuss common examples and debate whether or not they’re deserving of that title. As well as trying to identify: what actually makes a ‘foodie capital’?

Best soundbite: “Yes I just quoted from The Devil Wears Prada. And I’m PROUD.” – Jamie Spafford

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  1. dottleddolly

    I’m gonna go contreversal, I am saying the Isle of Man or some where similar is a foodie capital, since they focus on using local produce, taking influences from the many many cultures that live there but stil encapsulate the traditions of the island. As a chef who works on the island, we use alot of local produce, if we don’t make make our own icecreams we use a local ice cream make, same for bread and everything else. It’s a great thing.

  2. andrew_bulman

    Question on Jamie’s point about brisket in London vs. Austin. If a restaurant team from Austin moved to London to make the same brisket, would it be as good? If no, why not? If yes, what’s missing from London restaurants selling brisket?

  3. vsotardi

    Hi all! I’m new to Sorted, so I’m going backwards in time to listen to the podcasts and comment. 🙂

    I’m usually not one to harp on semantics, but I think there is an essential distinction between “food” and “foodie,” and I felt as though these terms were conflated in the discussion with Baz, James, and Jamie.

    A *food* capital, to me, represents a place where lots of diverse cuisines are available for consumption. I see that BellaV (below) has commented about Singapore. This is a perfect example: the geographic location of Singapore merges foods from the Chinese, Malay, Indian, Indonesian, and more!

    That said, a *foodie* capital might represent a place where people are interested in *having access to* particular types of cuisines. For me, foodies are people who are super passionate about finding out more about food items, cuisines, gastronomy, and methods of cooking. From that perspective, I’m with James in that London (or New York) as a natural hub for foodies.

    Following that logic, I’m not convinced that Catalonia (as per El Bulli) and now Copenhagen (Noma) should be referred to as food or foodie “capitals.” Don’t get me wrong: these are influential, innovative restaurants which are impacting the future of cooking. However, I don’t think that either region/city offers enough breadth and depth to be called a food or foodie capital at all.

    More broadly, I don’t really buy into the notion that *any* place should be *labelled* as a capital for food or foodies. There are natural places of convergence around the world, where both foods and foodies congregate; however, just as I loathe the notion of any restaurants advertising their food as “World Famous [fill-in-the-blank],” references to a place as a food/foodie capital appear to be entertained as a marketing ploy.

    Agree? Disagree?

  4. BellaV

    This was an interesting topic – and I agree that there are too many criteria to easily be able to name one “food capital” in the world – there are so many people in so many places doing creative things with food.
    It’s also tricky because there wouldn’t be many people who have travelled and eaten so extensively right around the world to be able to make that call anyway – but it’s fun to think about.
    From my travels I think the standout for food would have to be Singapore. The everyday food is great, so much fabulous stuff available for just a few dollars in the many food halls. Then there are some incredible high end restaurants – my personal favourite restaurant experience ever was at Whitegrass – multicultural food with an Aussie chef in Singapore.

  5. Jaitken

    To call a place THE food capital of the world is pretty much impossible, as you say. However, if that is a title that’s going to get bandied about, then I think it should be reserved for places like London or New York which do have that melting pot of cultures which allows for many different types of cuisine, as they are truly world food destinations, rather than being specific to a region or country.

    For future podcasts: I think you should focus on British food, and the bad name it’s got vs the actual produce available. It’s interesting both in terms of sustainability and culture.

  6. Chazz Vegas

    I definitely agree that the criteria are too varied to tie down one place. Having a bunch of Michelin stars may put a city on that pedestal of being a foodie capital or destination but are a bunch of Michelin stars a criteria that is representative of the general majority.

    If I were to nail it down to one place from the places I’ve been to in my lifetime it would have to be New Orleans for me because food is one of the things that defines that town. It is all things to all people there, from world class fine dining steeped in tradition right down to hole in the wall po’boy shops feeding the hungry masses for very little money while still being an absolute world beater of a meal. I’ve never been to a place where food is so deeply ensconced into the overall psyche of the city. The food is a part of the heartbeat of the city and I don’t think London, Paris, New York etc can say the same thing. I’ve also never been to a place that has left an impact on me in the way I think about food and eating more than New Orleans so for me it’ll always be there hands down. I understand you guys are heading out there again this year and I am beyond jealous! If you need recommendations I will write you a small novel!

  7. Annie1962

    World’s top restautants
    The 2019 World’s 50 Best Restaurants List
    Mirazur (Menton, France) Chef: Mauro Colagreco. …
    Noma (Copenhagen, Denmark) Chef: Rene Redzepi. …
    Asador Etxebarri (Atxondo, Spain) …
    Gaggan (Bangkok, Thailand) …
    Geranium (Copenhagen, Denmark)
    Central (Lima, Peru)
    Mugaritz (San Sebastian, Spain)
    Arpège (Paris, France)
    and the list goes on…

  8. Annie1962

    A strange title..
    I say that because it’s hard to determine a foodie capital city – as some cities and their restaurant fare are quite specific to the country whereas a city like London, or New York, are very multicultural.

    Not much to say except it would be a great idea to visit these places and compare notes. You’ve been to NY and you live in London.. so how about a more intensive testing of Paris , Munich…

    The only thing is some cities have fantastic fare of different nations.. if you came to Sydney or Melbourne, you’d find vast multiculturalistic dishes too.
    You’d have to go bush for some indigenous food here down undah.

    OY still can’t see your faces (your chat feels like I’m outside looking in)

  9. Dimi

    I guess to answer the initial podcast question, yes, I do think that title is a little bit rubbish.
    As everyone sort of pointed out, there are so many definitions of what A food capital could be that finding one place in the world to name as THE capital will never cover all the bases. Which I guess comes to the point “danielahitstheroad” made, who are these titles for? For the people that live there or have restaurants there to feel good about themselves? For the foodie tourists? I’d guess the point is to attract the latter, but again, the criteria is so subjective who’s opinion am I trusting as a foodie tourist?
    For me, I’ve been lucky enough to be born and raised in Melbourne, and although not as “big” we definitely have an amazing food culture and diversity that could rival London. So travelling to a place like London for the food is a bit pointless for me really. But I love Japanese food, so travelling to Japan for the food makes much more sense. Or travelling to Italy for the Italian food etc etc.
    I personally wouldn’t look at “food capital” and say YES I just go there. But I guess maybe less informed travellers might?

    • Dimi

      And then again the dream is to be able to one day afford to travel to Noma and eat there, so I guess that maybe does then make Copenhagen a food destination? A capital though? I’m still not sold on that.

  10. Luik

    It’s kind of interesting that this new locally sourced rebirth of Scandinavian cuisine has inspired chefs across “Western” countries, when similar principles in cuisine in eg some Asian countries where such traditions didn’t die in the first place have failed to do so. But I’ll be kind in my interpretation and attribute it to similarity of available ingredients and not relying on old food traditions in the Scandinavian food culture movement that inspired the can do attitude.
    As mentioned, our appreciation of food is also tired in to familiarity with the food and I think also the clout of the culture it is part of. So I think finding one capital will always disappoint, but we can still celebrate the many great food regions of the world 🙂

    • Luik

      Btw the audio is great now, before the change I had some trouble hearing (since we learned it, I’ll use his full name) James I Only Answered The Question Given To Me Currie. However, the starting music was a bit too loud compared to anything else in the podcast and compared to my other podcasts. You’ve probably already solved it by now, but perhaps the face issue (?) could be solved by a judiciously placed mirror and maybe nudging a chair to the left or right. It’s nicer when people can see each other when they speak.

  11. danielahitstheroad

    The thing is: there are fixed criteria for Michelin stars for example (although hardly anyone knows what they are) but even after listening to the whole episode I‘m none the wiser about the criteria for ‘food capital of the world’ 😂.
    Not even if it’s about THE capital or A capital; cause I’ve got dozens of places I consider hubs of the foodie world but would never want to pin the label on a single place/area/country. You made James sweat with that question!
    And the label is wishywashy in itself; cities use it for advertising, but what? Whose the target?
    What’s it to me that Tokyo has the most Michelin star restaurants when I’ll probably never eat in one?
    But I want to visit St.Sebastian because the cuisine of Northern Spain is celebrated there on so many levels that I’ll get an impression of it no matter where I eat.
    One of my pet peeves are Greek restaurants in my country because you hardly get any authentic Greek food there. It’s washed down and adapted to local tastes. So if I visit London or New York where I have a plethora of different cuisines to try, how good is it really going to get?
    As Jamie said, they have something they call brisket but it doesn’t live up to the real deal.
    If I don’t have the opportunity to travel to the places whose cuisines I want to explore, that’s what I will have to settle for. But things that will have to do don’t deserve such a grandiose label then.
    Food hotspots for me are places where the cuisine of a country is celebrated on an exceptional level of quality/density/ variety.
    There are thousands.
    For places where the cuisines of the world get together and inspire each other like London, New York, L.A. we’ll just have to find another label.
    Task’s over to you 😉.

  12. doniaa96

    In my opinion, diversity would play a bigger role in calling a city the food capital of the WORLD, and therefore London or LA would fall in that category for me. Although Italy and France have a huge influence on food internationally, I did like James’ point that that mostly concerns the western world and therefore I would not say they are food capitals of the world overall.
    P.S.: so glad Jamie brought up the Devil Wears a Prada reference because I was thinking about that same scene!

    • Sorted

      Classic film right?! Great to hear your opinion on this. We loved chatting about this one!

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