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We respectfully disagree.
Let me start with an admission: I’ve not been monogamous with you, dear readers. In addition to my WL travel and wine duties, I’m Vancouver magazine’s food editor, and part of those duties is to run the publication’s annual Restaurant Awards (now in it’s 30th year). It’s a rewarding job, but also often thankless in that no sooner do you put the results out than people start chirping about what a garbage job you and the judges did.
All of which to say, I know the difficulties of running a program like this and am loathe to be critical of them. But I was also born and raised in Edmonton (and full disclosure, I have a niece who works for Edmonton Tourism). So when someone says the equivalent of “Your hometown is a wasteland for food,” I get my back up. (Only Edmontonians can talk smack about Edmonton.)
And by “wasteland,” I mean that out of the 100 restaurants recently deemed “best in the country,” only three are from the YEG. And worse, those three are ranked #61, #93 and #95. (And trust me: when the end of a list looks crowded like this, it’s invariably because someone said, “Wow, we chose no Edmonton restaurants!” as they were tallying up the final count and therefore started jerry-rigging.)
Now, I appreciate that restaurant reviewing is a subjective experience. I disagree with some of the Vancouver choices, but that’s the nature of a subjective art. I like Burgundy, you like Bordeaux and on we go. But Edmonton’s dismal performance is like saying all they make there is Bud Light.
It’s all the more odd because the conventional wisdom for the past few years has been that Edmonton has been punching well above its weight for new rooms. And that’s coming mostly from Calgarians who don’t naturally skew towards praise for their northern neighbour. And as for the judges, I employ several of them for VanMag‘s awards and many others I have the highest regard for. So what gives? I fear the deck was stacked against the City of Champions (stop that snickering) from the start.
Canada’s 100 Best has 30 national judges—none of them appear to be from Edmonton. There are another 61 regional judges and precisely two are from Edmonton. Two. Out of 91 judges in total. Alumni of the original 90210 have almost as much representation (Jason Priestly is a B.C. judge).
Calgary, a city with only slightly higher population, has six judges—and Calgary has nine restaurants in the top 100, six of which are higher than any Edmonton restaurant. Newfoundland, with a population half of Edmonton’s, has the same number of restaurants and they’re much higher ranked. Even as I type this, I realize that—despite some two decades removed from having lived there—I’m doing the most Edmonton thing in the world: getting my feelings hurt because I feel slighted.
So in a world of unassailable subjectivity, I call an objective c’mon on behalf of my fellow Edmontonians because they’re too decent to do it themselves. Edmonton, we think your food scene rocks.
And I’m not even going to start on Victoria only get one nod—a #94 at that. Because I’m not a complainer.
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