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Talk to the Chef Influential Restaurants
Photograph: Oscar Oliva

The 19 most influential restaurants in the world, according to chefs

The world's most influential restaurants are changing the way we think about dining – one memorable meal at a time

Morgan Olsen
Written by
Morgan Olsen

There's no shortage of great restaurants on this planet, but only a select few can be considered influential. The latter inspires future generations of chefs and diners to crave something different – and it can manifest in countless ways. It's the avant-garde cooking techniques that blow your mind and the sustainability efforts that give you hope. These dining destinations are helmed by chefs who are blazing a new path forward, trends be damned.

And they're not just Michelin heavyweights. The world's most influential restaurants come in many shapes and sizes – they're underdogs, bygone kitchens and fast food chains. After all, influence is really determined by the eye of the beholder. That's why we turned to some of the world's best chefs to share the restaurants that have left a lasting impression on them. Their answers – and, perhaps more importantly, their stories – offer a new perspective on some of the world's top restaurants.

Craving more insider insight from the world's best chefs? You're in the right place. Talk to the Chef! is a weekly food series that taps into the minds of culinary leaders around the globe. The conversation changes just as often, and we'll chat with chefs about everything from podcasts and kitchen equipment to travel and trends.

The world’s most influential restaurants

Mugaritz in Errenteria, Spain

‘I believe the most influential restaurant in the world has to be, for me, Mugaritz in San Sebastian. The chefs there create masterpieces inspired by the land. Mugaritz has an ever-changing menu that elevates gastronomy and excites the creative palate. Working there definitely changed my life, therefore I believe it's the most influential restaurant in the world.’—Chanthy Yen, founder of Touk and chef of Parliament Pub & Parlour in Montreal

St John in London
  • Restaurants
  • British
  • Farringdon
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‘What Fergus Henderson achieved in terms of shifting our approach to nose-to-tail cooking and making some of the most ordinary ingredients cool is pretty remarkable and is still as relevant today as it was when he opened his doors in the mid ’90s. He started with utilising the whole pig to get the ball rolling; the rest of us followed suit, and now, thankfully, it’s happening more with all ingredients – chicken, lamb, beef, seafood (shout out Josh Nyland), fruits and vegetables.’—Darren Robertson, chef and co-owner of Three Blue Ducks in Melbourne

‘St John changed the way we thought about British food and, in turn, changed the way restaurants around the world think about waste. It wasn’t about paying lip service to reducing waste and being sustainable; it was about celebrating ingredients over technique and making sure we respect what we’re cooking by using every part of every ingredient.’—Max Venning, co-owner of Top Cuvée in London

‘Wow, this is a complex question. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel the world dining out in both inspiring and highly acclaimed three-star venues, so there are many to think about. My mind was blown on a visit to Alinea in Chicago 15 years ago as a truly unique evening, but Fergus Henderson’s St John in London has really helped change the way great chefs think about produce the world over, so he gets my vote.’—Jeff Baker, development chef of Farmison & Co in the UK


Olive Garden

‘Olive Garden, which was my first job, and the other casual dining spots that popped up in the ’80s and ’90s really influenced the masses and made dining out easier for families. I still use the O.G. mottos in my restaurants: “Hot food hot. Cold food cold. Money to the bank. Clean restrooms.” Sometimes the simplest things and places make a lasting impression.’—Stephanie Izard, chef-owner of Girl & the Goat in Chicago and Los Angeles (plus many other Goats in Chicago)

Restoran Osman in Johor, Malaysia

‘The most remarkable restaurant for me would be Restoran Osman in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. It’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and it’s the best place to have Malaysian Indian food. I love spending time there with my friends and families. Sometimes it's not all about fine dining but the company that you have.’—Ho Wai-Kong, head chef at Bibi & Baba in Hong Kong


Rockhouse Restaurant in Jamaica

‘A local restaurant in Jamaica located at the west end of Negril called Rockhouse. Why? This restaurant is one of the most beautiful locations on the beach where there is amazing sunset dining. Not to mention, it's got delicious food with local ingredients make it an unforgettable experience.’—Dadrian Coke, chef de cuisine at Chubby's Jamaican Kitchen in Toronto

El Bulli in Roses, Spain

‘A few names from the past decade come to mind, but I would have to say El Bulli, even if it is closed today. They had a very strong influence on how today’s chefs think about not only food but the restaurant as a whole, and I think it is still influencing people in many fields, not only cooking.’—Agustin Ferrando Balbi, chef-founder of Andō in Hong Kong

‘In my opinion, the most influential restaurant in the world undoubtedly has to be El Bulli by chef Ferran Adria. Every restaurant creates good food, but only a few teach how to create. His work with Texturas has been instrumental in modern gastronomy. There have been so many chefs who are in the top 100 in the world, and they have all worked at El Bulli at some point in their lives – that is rare. They created a new language of food.’—Prashant Chipkar, executive chef and culinary director at Masti and chef at Time Out Market in Dubai


Noma in Copenhagen

‘In my opinion, the most influential restaurant in the world has to be Noma. They have not only pioneered in putting Nordic cuisine on the map but also bringing some of the forgotten ancient foraging, fermenting and aging techniques back to the modern world and making it cool again.’—Avinash Shashidhara, head chef of Pali Hill in London

‘Noma in Copenhagen – they set the bar all the time from a food and beverage point of view, plus they respect and treat their staff with greatness, and they were the first restaurant to ever salary a dishwasher.’—Lamar Moore, executive chef of Eleven Eleven in Chicago

‘For me, it’s Noma. I went to eat there a few years ago, but I always felt that they were the best and most influential for the simple reason that they don’t stand still. They constantly reinvent themselves, relocating, doing pop-ups in Mexico and Australia, and applying their ethos and approach to what is around them. They also challenge your perceptions of food, whether it be a vegetable-focused season or using insects as seasonings.’—Chris Leach, chef-cofounder of Manteca in London

The Grey in Savannah, Georgia

‘If I had to pick one, it would be The Grey in Savannah, Georgia, headed by executive chef Mashama Bailey. What she is doing with Southern comfort food is something I have’t seen before. The way she has elevated traditional dishes with ingredients not normally seen in Southern cooking has expanded scope of Black cooking in the South. She has created a new lane.’—Kristen Ashley, chef-owner of Cleo's Southern Cuisine in Chicago


Prince’s Hot Chicken in Nashville

‘Prince's Hot Chicken Shack in Nashville. First in the business of Nashville-style hot chicken as far back as my family can date it is 1936. Now, lo and behold, there are hundreds of Nashville hot chicken-inspired restaurants and menus all over the world. Born in Nashville, fiery fried fowl has taken over, and you can get some version of it in Australia, Tokyo, the Phillipines, Canada... just about every continent has Nashville hot chicken. Well, I don't know about Antarctica. But, if not, it would be a great place to eat it and get an instant cool down.’—Kim Prince, owner of Hotville Chicken in Los Angeles

Anything from Big Mamma Group

‘I’m a big fan of the Big Mamma Group. I’m French, so I have seen how well they have launched their restaurants both in Paris and in London now, and have a lot of respect for their development, reasonable pricing, offering and their approach on everything from the menu and interiors to their launches. They may not be the most high-brow restaurants out there, but they take risks, and their customers leave happy.’—Romain Bourillion, founder of Cocotte in London


The French Laundry in Yountville, California

‘I would say The French Laundry. I had the privilege to work for chef Keller at Bouchon Bakery in Yountville and got to see first-hand how an organization can execute everything with grace while maintaining such high standards. So many current chefs started their careers in one of his kitchens and carried those standards to their own workplaces. You see this with Grant Achatz at Alinea or Corey Lee of Benu and many others who previously worked in The French Laundry kitchen. They are all now in the position to pass those teachings on to the next generation and continue a legacy of reaching higher than the standard.’—Sharyn Harding, assistant culinary director of Heirloom Hospitality in Detroit

‘In my opinion, it’s The French Laundry, a restaurant that has been around for almost 30 years with an incredibly impressive caliber of cuisine. The restaurant itself and chef Thomas Keller have received numerous awards and accolades, and some of the greatest chefs – not only in the country but in the world – have come out of that kitchen.’—Cesar Zapata, chef of Phuc Yea and Pho Mo at Time Out Market in Miami

Mindy’s Bakery in Chicago

‘The most influential restaurant in the world, in my opinion, is Mindy’s Bakery (formerly HotChocolate) here in Chicago. As a fellow Kendall College alumna, I’ve loved following Mindy Segal’s career. She has been such a huge influence on my own career – as a woman in the pastry world, it's been so nice to see a woman dominating the industry the way she wants, not allowing anyone to control her every move. From her restaurants to her Cookie Love cookbook, and her pioneering of the edibles realm with her cannabis chocolates and gummies, I've enjoyed everything she’s done. She's a great example to all young pastry chefs.’ —Felicia Mayden, executive pastry chef at Lovage at Ace Hotel Chicago


Silo in London

‘In my opinion, Silo is the most influential restaurant in the world. Waste is something that affects the entire hospitality industry, and a concept that focuses on changing that has the potential to change the entire hospitality industry. If something has the potential to change an entire industry, it also has the potential to be the most influential in that industry.’—Shaulan Steenson, executive chef at TEMAKI in Brixton

Le Chique in Cancún

‘In my opinion, it was Le Chique, one of the best Mexican restaurants I have ever been to by chef Jonatán Gómez-Luna. Even though it is no longer open, it was very inspiring in terms of technique and flavor profiles that no one else had before imagined.’—Carlos Gaytán, chef-owner of Tzuco in Chicago



‘I am going to be very controversial and say McDonalds. Healthwise, it’s not that spectacular, but if you look at the business model and the history of the company, you can see that a small burger chain changed the landscape of QSR forever. Not only is it in the US market, but it’s global – everyone in the world knows about the famous golden arches.’Nyesha Arrington, Los Angeles-based chef and former Top Chef contestant

Hillstone Restaurant Group

‘Hillstone Restaurant Group. Period. End of story. Some may claim the notoriety of three-Michelin-star restaurants, but every city I’ve ever lived in, or had a business in, has been influenced heavily by this group. They have such broad appeal, and their consistency is the benchmark of what most operators strive to achieve. This group has spawned countless knockoffs, all which fail to actually compete and win against the goliath. Even as a chef, at a certain point, you have to tip your cap to them.’Travis Strickland, chef of Baltaire in Los Angeles


Dooky Chase Restaurant in New Orleans

‘Dooky Chase in New Orleans. Leah Chase was a true pioneer. She helped shape New Orleans cuisine into what we all know and love to this day. Dooky Chase has withstood the test of time while hosting an array of civil rights leaders, politicians, musicians and more. Leah Chase is New Orleans.’—Brian Jupiter, chef-owner of Ina Mae Tavern and Frontier in Chicago

Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California

‘Alice Waters is truly pioneering in her views on sustainable cooking and was establishing relationships with local suppliers and producers long before it was the trendy thing to do. She continues to define modern American food, and not only is Chez Panisse a wonderful restaurant to dine at, but Alice has created such a desirable work space, using its influence to educate about sustainable food practices and ideas with her “edible education” initiative.’—James Lowe, chef-founder of Lyle's in London


It’s impossible to pick just one

‘This is a really hard question. There are restaurants in every country that wield a huge amount of influence. I would argue that Chez Panisse started the whole farm-to-fork movement when it started. In the UK, the River Café has trained countless chefs who have gone on to open their own restaurants in their own style, training more chefs in the pursuit of incredible ingredients cooked well. You could argue the same with Gordon Ramsay and chefs like Jason Atherton, Clare Smyth and Angela Hartnett who have emerged from his kitchens. Noma has influenced a huge stable of chefs more interested in foraging and working with more obscure, local ingredients. And Enrique Olvera, in his restaurant Pujol, has inspired a generation of Mexican chefs to embrace their own heritage and ingredients as opposed to the generations before who had embraced all things European. I love seeing how a brilliant chef can produce ripples and waves of great restaurants through the amazingly trained cooks they have inspired.’—Thomasina Miers, founder of Wahaca in London


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