Michelin Can’t Catch a Brake-A Press Roundup: Marc Veyrat Keeps On Fighting-The Cost and Effect of Stardom– Two German Chefs No Longer Care About Michelin– To Win the New Michelin Sustainability Award, Just Answer the Phone.

Whatever the opposite of warm and fuzzy is (cold and bristly?), that’s what Michelin’s guide director Gwendal Poullennec is. He is one of the main reasons the Michelin Guide itself doesn’t have a friend in the world beyond the chefs who have one or more of its stars and why it seems that every week there is a disdainful or derogatory story about it in a French newspaper or blog site.  By now it is evident that Michelin’s posture is never to send out Poullennec to comment or defend himself, besides which I have yet to read anything favorable other than when the sponsoring body of a country or city guide first publishes its dedicated Michelin Guide.

From time-to-time, I will post the most interesting and pertinent MIchelin Guide commentary from the mainstream media and the blogosphere. In order of appearance here, there is Gilles Pudlowski’s blog post of Marc  Veyrat’s thinking since losing his November court hearing; a superb essay from the center-right general interest magazine Valeurs also about Veyrat, as well as the trials, tribulations and the economics of having Michelin stars; a Stern website story of two German chefs who no longer create in order to please Michelin; and the chef Christian Puglisi’s (Restaurant Relae, Copenhagen) criticism of MIchelin for awarding him its new green clover symbol solely on the basis of a quick telephone conversation, and why the award lacks rigor and good conception.  Puglisi wrote it for his in-house publication Relae.j

                                                1. Gilles Pudlowski on Marc Veyrat

He seems to throw in the towel by announcing the end of legal proceedings against Michelin.  “That I was the victim testifies to the questionable procedures that this publication uses to establish its reputation. I had for a time considered appealing. It turns out that, confirming my complaints about the integrity and objectivity of the Michelin Guide, a major element has intervened with the withdrawal, in February 2020, of the third star at the Auberge du Pont de Collonges, the restaurant of the late Paul Bocuse, whose team maintains the service loud and clear without question. The facts are now obvious: the Michelin Guide does not base its ratings decisions on purely professional criteria related to the quality of the table and the content of the plates, but rather on its increased need for notoriety. It is a communications strategy that consists of attacking the restaurants with the biggest names and the most famous cooks, as it is already the case with Marc Haeberlin in Illhaeusern, or Alain Dutournier in Paris, as part of the rewriting of supposed elites in order to make room for the next generation and begin to saturate the dining world with a new “starry” beginning  This reality is enough in itself to conclude that the Michelin guide is engaged in a cleansing in terms of the media and culinary politics, aiming to refresh a declining image. It certainly has this right.”

Satisfying myself that I was treated with the same consideration as my glorious colleagues, and in the expectation of being joined by those who will follow, my judicial trial is now obsolete. I therefore have asked my lawyer to abandon an appeal . My devotion to the cause of French haute cuisine and Savoyard agricultural heritage remains more than ever intact. History will judge.”

Marc Veyrat continues to think that he was not really judged by the red guide and reiterates that when the judge in Nanterre asked the lawyer for Michelin to present its file on him, he replied that there was none. Veyrat therefore plans to continue the fight in other forms. “I have not finished with them.”

2. Frédéric Paya. Valeurs Actuelles. “Star Wars”.

Black hat, black waistcoat, white scarf, purple glasses and slow gait, Marc Veyrat walks around the dining room of the La Fontaine Gaillon restaurant, located near the Stock Exchange in Paris. The famous Savoyard chef ,who in the past has obtained three times three stars, the supreme distinction from the Michelin Guide, and twice the maximum score of 20/20 awarded by the Gault & Millau guide, stops at each table, greets the guests and poses for photos with them. It was Veyrat who Benjamin Patou, president of Moma Group that bought the establishment from Gérard Depardieu, entrusted the kitchen. The legendary outspoken chef has lost none of his creativity. This evening he has created a side dish of leek fondue and steamed fennel seasoned with horseradish sauce. But it is above all an injured man who still has not digested the loss a year ago of the third star of his restaurant in Manigod in the French Alps.

We got the three stars when we opened La Maison des Bois; the Michelin Guide took it away a year later. Unheard of for a century”, he says, sitting down at a table in front of a truffle soup. “I am a victim of ‘cheddargate ‘. In 2018, the inspectors applauded the ‘disappearing pasta ‘ (made with Tomme de Savoie and Reblochon that melted when an infusion of omble chevalier was poured on it). “The following year, they took this same preparation, cut this time into a square, and said I used cheddar. Michelin investigators do not know the local products; they do not have gastronomic skills, he says getting carried away. Last year, the Savoyard, who trained 15 triple-star, 17 double-star and 21 one-star chefs, brought the case to court to understand the reasons for the downgrade; obtain evidence of inspections; and gain access to the deliberations that led to the decision. The judge rejected the suit a few days before the 2020 edition of the guide came out. “With all due respect to Mr. Bocuse, we can also ask ourselves the question of whether his restaurant was still worth three stars for years.”

As every year, the Guide MIchelin, having acquired over the years a quasi-monopoly on the evaluation of restaurants in France, revealed its share of good surprises with 49 new one-star establishments (there are 513 in France ), 11 new two-stars (86) and 3 new three-stars (29). In total, there are 628 starred tables in France. But there have also been many disappointments: 52 one-stars are no longer; 8 two-stars lost one of its stars while a legendary three-star was demoted: the restaurant in Collonges-au-Mont-d’Or, where Paul Bocuse obtained his first star in 1958.

How did they dare attack Bocuse who trained the greatest chefs”? Marc Veyrat gets carried away. “It is an offense to French gastronomy. Do they want to dethrone the old generation? Yesterday was me; today is Bocuse, and tomorrow will be Georges Blanc? ” Chef Yves Camdeborde is more measured: “Those who are glorified must also accept defeats; the generation that complains today forgets that they were young and endured a form of gastronomic power. That said, with all due respect to Mr. Bocuse, we can also ask ourselves the question of whether his restaurant for years was still worth three stars. I just find it petty to have withdrawn this distinction after his death while the teams had not changed. “

Between certain chefs and the Michelin Guide, relations have become complex. It is a relationship of love and hate, of high stakes and passion says Jean-Philippe Durand, the consultant to chefs who works with those who want to earn their first star or who, after having obtained it,  try for two of them, or want the Holy Grail, the third star. He has worked with Nicolas Masse ( La Grand ‘Vigne ) and Arnaud Faye ( La Chèvre d’or ). The star? It is the embodiment of a career, of daily work carried out within teams, with clients , says Mathilde Dewilde, programmer of the Taste of Paris festival, which will bring together 50 renown chefs under the roof of the Grand Palais  However, it should not be forgotten that stars are a reward put into play every year and that nothing is ever acquired“. What Yves Camdeborde puts in more sporting terms, Is the (rugby team) Stade Toulouse the champion of France every year? “

If the criteria for awarding the first two stars are understood (seasonality and quality of products, accuracy and balance of flavors, perfect seasoning and cooking, regularity in service and menus, culinary personality and identity), the chefs recognize that those of the third star seem obscure to them: The rules of the game are opaque , judges Yves Camdeborde for whom the Michelin Guide under Gwendal Poullennec remains the only French representative with a truly French soul. Jean-Philippe Durand tries to decipher it. It must no longer be an exceptional cuisine but a unique cuisine; it is no longer the one that is worth a detour but the one that is worth the journey. This is where the Michelin is put in difficulty. It puts forward the criterion of emotion of what I can hear, but it is also what is the most enigmatic. “

And as soon as you reach the emotions, you also reach the human, so too the artist, because at this level, haute-cuisine is an art made of subtleties of flavors and tastes, of explorations, discoveries and memories: You can feel aesthetic emotions comparable to those that you can experience when hearing a piece of music or standing in front of a masterpiece,” states Jean-Philippe Durand. It also highlights the sporting character of the chefs, who question themselves every day because, at any time, a Michelin inspector can walk in the door of an establishment. For Yves Camdeborde, It’s a job where nothing is fixed: you can not be good at noon and be excellent at night”.

If the starred chefs tremble as much each time the Guide is published, it is also because the Michelin star is double-edged. In the event of loss, this culinary distinction rhymes with financial difficulties. “To understand this, it is necessary to explain what happens when a star is awarded” notes Olivier Gergaud, professor of economics at the Kedge Business School and specialist in the economics of gastronomy. After studying 172 establishments, Gergaud finds that “restaurateurs have more customers, but they cannot push the walls outward; the waiting list lengthens with a mechanical effect on prices. However, if turnover increases, profit does not evolve in the same way. Profitability remains around 1 to 3%, identical to that of non-star establishments. Michelin-starred establishments accumulate capital thanks to the rewards, but at the cost of significant debt and fixed costs.”

The chef who commits to the logic of Michelin must be ready to follow an implicit code that the Guide does not recognize ,” continues Olivier Gergaud. The financial windfall is therefore mainly used to invest, hire more staff and pay for ever more noble and expensive raw materials. “ This is confirmed by Marc Veyrat about La Maison des Bois : ” “I have invested more than 8 million euros in it and I have 40 employees”. In other words, Michelin-starred establishments accumulate capital thanks to rewards but at the cost of significant debt and fixed costs. The chef then finds himself on the knife edge, forced to continue to progress unless he opens in his name additional restaurants, bakeries, etc. to diversify the risk.

As long as his establishment keeps its stars, everything is fine. But when Michelin inspectors remove one (there are normally several anonymous visits, followed by explanations and a conference between the representatives of the Guide and the chef), the descent into hell begins, and there is no insurance for this type event. Patronage  quickly falls while the expenses are still running. Olivier Gergaud calculated that profitability then went from 3.3 to – 1.9%: I am not worried either for La Maison des Bois of Marc Veyrat or for the Auberge du Pont de Collonges of Paul Bocuse whose reputations will remain popular. But for other restaurateurs, it’s not the same. “We had dinner with Bernard Loiseau a month before he lost his third star” , says a couple of Alsatians we met at La Fontaine Gaillon . Loiseau said, ‘If they take my third star away, I’m screwed.'”  The false rumor of the loss of the star was probably one of the triggers for his suicide in 2003.

Faced with implicit pressure from Michelin, some restaurateurs decided to no longer be included in this ranking. They can thus lighten their burden and have a slightly less luxurious setting without sacrificing the quality of the dishes. I left this system , says Yves Camdeborde. “It brings a lot of human and psychological pressure to a job which, when done with passion, is already very stressful.” In 2015, Stéphane and David Rétif also decided to give back the star they had obtained for D’Antan Sancerrois : “We are going back to basics.… No frills. Back to basics. All of this lowers the cost of the dish. It is unthinkable that gastronomy be elitist. Too often we hear from people who tell us that they can’t come here more often to have fun”, they explained to the newspaper Berry Républicain .

For his part, Sébastien Bras received three stars in 2017 for his restaurant Le Suquet in Laguiole, in the Auvergne. It was then that he asked MIchelin to de-list it from the guide “to give a new meaning to my life: my life professional, my life in general, and redefine this essential ”. But in 2019, the Michelin Guide re-listed it with two stars: “This contradictory decision leaves us skeptical, even if we no longer feel concerned, either by the stars or by the Guide’s strategies ,” explained Sébastien Bras in a press release. I expressed my position last year and I am still in the same state of mind, again and again with the trust of our customers.” For some, apparently, like in the soap opera The Prisoner , it is not easy to get out of the Michelin!

3. Denise Spieguole Wachter. Stern. “Martin Scharff is Tired of Michelin Stars.”

Top chef Martin Scharff held a Michelin star for 28 years and was once the youngest in all of Germany to receive it. For a chef, a Michelin star is actually the culmination of his work and definitely a reason to celebrate. Some chefs work their entire lives towards the coveted award while others cannot do anything with them. At the beginning of March, the Michelin Guide distributes its stars again, and many top chefs will be eagerly awaiting the announcement. Will there be a new three-star restaurant in Germany? Will the chefs be able to keep their stars? There is one who will not be particularly interested: Martin Scharff.

Scharff has been able to keep a Michelin star for over 28 years. But at the beginning of  this year, his restaurant Schlossweinstube in the Heidelberg Castle was turned upside down. “I want to go back to my roots, to give myself more freedom without having to consider the basics of star cuisine,” he says in a statement that he published on his website . His dishes are inspired by his travels. He is always looking for new recipes, products and spices. But as to how the MIchelin star kitchen develops, he can no longer identify with it.

“For me this has become a very visual uniformity and often has nothing to do with classic craft. I want to get away from the playful decorating and back to the basic taste with first-class products,” says Scharff. This is how he wants to keep it in the future. The menu will then no longer contain dishes that need to be tweezered, but his favorite dishes instead, such as variations of the veal or classic braised dishes, but also cosmopolitan dishes such as ceviche from the Odenwald salmon trout. He calls it “a seasonal and regional taste cuisine in dialogue with the world”. And in terms of price, Scharff wants to cook into the hearts of the locals again and not only attract tourists. So there should be a regional three-course menu for about 50 euros and the tasting menu for less than 100 euros. Individual dishes from the menu are available from 24 euros.

Maria Gross, once one of the youngest star chefs, also left her starred restaurant when she realized that she was becoming “increasingly more of a jerk”. In addition, she no longer wanted to hand over the pressure to her employees. Gross is now devoting herself to her home in Thuringia working with local producers and cooking the way she likes best. Without pressure. Without a star circus.

4. Christian Puglisi, owner-chef of Restaurant Relais in Copenhagen, writes in his newsletter how his restaurant received Michelin’s brand new clover symbol for sustainability.

Monday night it was showtime. The Michelin Guide came out and a mix of anxiety, pressure, and expectations were released all over the Scandinavian food scene as the “ins and outs” of the year were revealed.

This year, though, the good old guide is trying hard to be up-to-date with the rest of the world. This year, ladies and gentlemen, red is going green: The guide is starting to talk about sustainability. Are we going to see a challenge put out by the most powerful entity in fine-dining and gastronomy that will make all restaurants thoroughly review their practices?

I was excited to hear that the Michelin Guide had wanted to take sustainability seriously. After decades of making chefs trim fish and meat into exact squares and perfect rolls, it was about time for some redemption, no? Is Michelin considering restaurant’s sourcing of produce, its impact on the planet and letting cooking connect pleasure with good and responsible practices? Please tell me. Will I live to see us start making the world a better place by meticulously picking one micro herb at a time? Will we?

No. Not this time around at least.

To ‘Young Up’ the Michelin Guide

I used to be all about the Michelin Guide back when just over a handful of restaurants in the city had a star—back when two stars seemed to be achievable only by demigods. You didn’t know who the inspectors were, where they went or what the hell they wanted.  They were revered and feared and very incognito. The morning of the day the guide would appear, restaurants would huddle up and invite the staff for breakfast. While expectations would build up around town, you would just sit around and wait for someone that somehow knew: to call up the restaurant on the phone and bring the news that you got a star.

But in reality, most mornings in most restaurants would be like every other morning – nothing happened, nothing changed, no one got a star. That approach of non-communication seems now to belong to another era.

Today the Michelin Guide has turned around and wants all the attention it can get. It has also understood the importance of the Gala – the event, the need for some showtime. So they throw a party very much like their antagonist, the “World’s 50 Best” , which has succeeded in getting loads of attention from both industry and the media doing just that. The guide is following the example, and just like the 50 Best probably having someone paying for it. The “Visit Trondheim” financial contribution might very well have been the greatest reason for flying chefs in from all over Scandinavia to Trondheim.

Give ‘em something green, they would say. And the guide seemed to listen.

Stars and oversized jackets were handed out, sassy graphics displayed the name of the restaurant with suspense and momentum as a sort of Oscars on a budget. Once again Michelin was trying to “young up” the guide. But if you are hungry for attention in 2020, all the communications consultants in the world would queue up to suggest that you talk about sustainable practices. Give ‘em something green, they would say. And the guide seemed to listen.

“Those at the forefront with their sustainable gastronomy practices are highlighted by a new symbol, with the restaurant’s vision also outlined via a quote from the chef,” states the Michelin Guide’s homepage.

“Interesting! What an initiative,” I thought.

I looked through the list of restaurants receiving the new, green emblem and found Relæ among the 11 other Danish restaurants.

Then it hit me. How did we end there?

A Phone Call

I tried to rewind to whatever kind of investigation we had been a part of. How did the Michelin Guide know about our sustainable practices? How did we qualify for this fabulous new “sustainability emblem”? Or did we all just get lucky by picking up a five-leaf clover?

I came to learn that the thorough investigation we were put through was… a phone conversation. Yes sir, literally someone calling up the restaurant and asking:

“So, you are sustainable?” ” Yes?”

“Tell me, how?”

“Ok, thank you.”

A simple phone conversation addressed to the chef of the restaurant. Yep, not an audit, not a questionnaire, not an effort – and by no means a critical question of any type. A phone conversation that gives us the right to display a clover next to our Michelin star. Like ten other restaurants in Denmark. Like 26 other restaurants in Scandinavia. Like 50 in France.

I came to learn that the thorough investigation we were put through was… a phone conversation.

Now let me just be clear. I don’t believe that we are utterly sustainable. We do serve meat (which is not unsustainable per se, but that’s another topic); we do emit CO2; we do produce waste; we do heat the restaurant in the winter; we do use cling wrap, even though we are phasing it out; we do sometimes travel to cook dinners and give demonstrations..

At Relæ we put plenty of effort into making up for those issues though; we have worked exclusively with organically certified produce since 2014; we limit our waste; we make informed choices when we can; and gather information when we are not informed enough. We established a farm in 2016 to find answers to some of those questions. We have been audited, and have audited ourselves for years trying to improve in all aspects and dimensions. I believe that being sustainable is a state of mind, a way of seeing the world with a deep sense of responsibility. I have always felt that this approach is hardly compatible with the traditional world of fine-dining, which I never wanted Relæ to be a part of.

The idea of perfection made as a geometrical exercise reduces the most beautiful cuts of meat to ridiculous portions and turns out nature’s bountiful gifts into small dots and circles.

Continuity, standardization, perfection are simply not words that harmonize with reducing waste and sourcing natural and organic produce. The idea of perfection as a geometrical exercise reduces the most beautiful cuts of meat to ridiculous portions and turns nature’s bountiful gifts into small dots and circles. The excessive manipulation and a wasteful and, in my taste, distasteful, approach to cooking is at the very core of the fine-dining that Michelin represents. It is therefore utterly and totally unacceptable to think a phone call is enough. It’s a kind of making ridiculous our industry by the same power structure that has been praising the opposite practices for many decades up until now.

(The article continues below video.) Editor’s note: This is well worth watching for its insight into what is wrong about todays restaurant gastronomy.

Christian F. Puglisi on the Michelin Guide’s new sustainability emblem. Watch the full video on IGTV.

Lead – Don’t Greenwash

For most of my colleagues’ restaurants, I know as little about their sustainable practices as the Michelin Guide does, but I know for a fact that three of us are certified organic while eight are not. I know I have colleagues on that list that I respect greatly for the work they do and the responsibility they take–work and responsibility that need much more than a phone call to understand and acknowledge. Let me remind you that this is the industry where focusing on waste products can be interpreted by picking parsley off the stem, serving the stem and ditching the leaves. Instead, kitchens that take the chance to challenge the status quo and embrace whole beast butchery, limiting off-cuts and applying dynamic menu structures that allow for less waste should be rewarded, but also challenged to do better.

That the Michelin Guide wakes up to take responsibility for the sustainability practices could be a dream come true. But in a field such as gastronomy, which should lead the way more than any other in making our transition into a more sustainable food system that is flavourful, delicious and full of great gastronomic experiences, well, this just doesn’t cut it. Is there no one in this industry capable of asking critical questions and taking us all a bit more seriously?

Lifting a pretty glass dome to puff out some green smoke and sound like you care does not cut it in 2020, dear Michelin Man. It is disrespectful towards those in this industry who take the current problems seriously. It is hurting the credibility of the restaurant scene to announce leaders to be “setting the standard for the rest of the world to follow”, simply by their picking up the phone and saying, “Yeah, we’re sustainable.”

There is only one word for this practice, and that is “greenwashing”.

That not a single gastronomical journalist has asked himself the obvious question–how? and why? In regards to this, let’s say, new move from the Guide keeps blowing my mind into pieces. Is there no one in this industry capable of asking critical questions and taking us all a bit more seriously?

If the Michelin Guide wants to do something about sustainability, they need to challenge us. If it wants to do something about sustainability, then they need to challenge us. They need to make an effort to try to make us make an effort. We need gastronomy to wake up and put its money where its mouth is. We know that acknowledgment and stars are HIGH currency in this industry. Make a sustainable mark, set a new standard, but make an effort in making it, and reward those who are going a long way to get it. Not someone who picks up the phone for a quote.

Christian F. Puglisi

The Michelin Guide to Potemkin Village: Follow the Inspectors to the Five Corners of the Earth.

I: The Michelin Inspectors: A Recent History

Hardly a week goes by when the International Director of the Michelin Guides Gwendal Poullennec reminds us that there is a veritable army of traveling inspectors combing through the guide’s international terrain in order to put a plate, a chops-licking Bibendum, or stars next to a restaurant’s name.

Because extant inspectors operate anonymously (although many chefs can spot one walking through the door), no one can exact much information about how many of them there are, who they are, where they go, or their experience or qualifications. Although inspectors are becoming an anachronism in the Internet age, Michelin tenaciously trumpets them because they are what distinguishes it from nearly all other ratings and rank-order restaurant guides that use anyone who wants to play restaurant reviewer (TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Instagram) or ardent gastronomes and culinary professionals (OAD, the World’s 50 Best Restaurants and long-established guidebooks that used to be print-only) or computerized hands-off print and on-line measurement algorithms (La Liste 1000).

That Michelin inspectors are no longer seen as having the last word in restaurant ratings hasn’t always been so. Beginning in 1933 when the three-stars protocol began, Michelin’s coverage was limited to Paris, the Côte d’Azur and points in-between. As its coverage of France expanded to involve the entire country, so did the number of inspectors, which Michelin could afford since the guide business was part of the tire manufacturer Groupe Michelin. Until very late in the 20th-century, sizing-up restaurants in France (and everywhere else for that matter) was less complicated than it is now. While some chefs at that time were conceptually adventuresome, they were still strongly grounded in classic French cuisine, particularly those who received two or three stars. As for other chefs who received one star or red “R”s, signifying well-prepared meals at a modest price, they mostly served classic or traditional French food largely of the region they were in. Today, however, a diner in upper-echelon restaurants confronts relatively free-form cooking that can be a mix of New World, Old World and Asian cuisines, the use of industrial or chemical products, and a myriad of inconsistent hit and miss courses conceived to be in small portions, all of which complicate judgments, consensus and ratings.

Until 2004 when Pascal Remy, a Michelin inspector, wrote the book “L’Inspecteur se met à table”, no one questioned Michelin’s inspector protocol. That the tire company formed in 2000 a wholly owned subsidiary, Michelin Travel Partner, may have resulted in economies that included the number of inspectors on the payroll. What no one can deny, however, is that inspectors cost a lot of money and bring in no revenue. An educated guess of the cost is around $100,000 a year per inspector based on a modest salary; automobile expenses; lodgings; and restaurant meals of which there are two a day for at least 30 weeks a year. How many world-wide inspectors are Michelin employees is a secret and, according to Poullennec in the recently published book “M: Le grand livre du Guide Michelin”, it’s the tire company that now pays for them.

II. “M. Le grand livre du Guide Michelin”: Inspector Deception.

The overwhelming degree to which Poullennec is obsessed with convincing the dining world that his inspectors produce the ultimate word in restaurant ratings is on full display in this “grand livre”. A 384-page book that invites readers to follow the Michelin inspectors to the “four corners of the earth”, it is a ham-handed, indeed deceptive, glorification of Michelin inspectors. Poullennec tries to convince the culinary world that “Le grand livre” is based on following Michelin inspectors around various countries, cities and regions sharing their knowledge and discoveries. In truth, the book’s editorial overseer chose 13 culinary writers and journalists who suggested specific topics from a list of locations, none of whom met any inspectors during the research and the writing of (if I count correctly) 322 essays. Then, so that the unquestioning reader will naively think the inspectors set foot in the corresponding places and may have written the essays, Michelin did not have any of the short but informative articles signed by their authors. It appears to me that the raison d’ être for the book is as much to convince the world that there is an omnipresent core of inspectors than it is of presenting the culinary features of the places it covers.

In the light of Michelin’s declining fortunes, Poullennec sets out in the book’s front matter to glorify and romanticize the Michelin inspector. “Let’s dispel ourselves of the Épinal print (French 19th color prints depicting everyday life) of an inspector of a certain age depicted as dressed to the nines and whose love for good food is betrayed by his small stomach. Of course, you need to be a bon vivant to execute this trade, which is a passion” …”Above all, we come from the four corners of the world. One in San Francisco, another in Shanghai, and another in Paris. All of us explore the cuisines of the world researching THE good address for you … we should know that the inspector’s five senses are on permanent alert. That is how we start out on the hunt for the stars” and  “We are obligated to try everything and adapt ourselves to all kinds of tastes, even those that at first seem the most incongruous. Think of our travel notebooks as being filled with anecdotes, meetings and memories!”

As prerequisites, inspectors need “a sharp palate and be able to ignore personal taste. He must know how to put himself in the skin of Mr. Everybody. And proceed with the most objective evaluations possible. A solid knowledge of products, terroir and culinary culture is equally necessary since the quality of the produce is one of the five criteria on which his inspection is based, the others being an analysis of the cooking; taking in the texture of a dish; describing the presentation; harmonies of flavors; and perceiving the chef’s emotions he wishes to transmit” (sic). We also learn that an inspector’s life is hectic; three weeks a month on the road looking for new addresses and “to confirm the selection or removal of an establishment”. He then spends the fourth week in Paris (for the French guide) going over his road work with Poullennec and giving his reports to the editors who write the restaurant descriptions. The attribution of the stars takes place in meetings with the editor-in-chief of the guide; the relevant inspectors and Poullennec. “The decision to grant or not grant one or several stars is made in a collegial manner. If the inspectors disagree as to the classification of a restaurant, new visits are organized”,

The culinary commentator Roger Feuilly wrote almost a year ago in his site “Le Blog de Tout n’est que Litres et Ratures”….”What we do not know is the number of inspectors who work for this now-labyrinthian publishing house—no less than 30 publications-nor what are the ethics and the instructions given to the detriment of transparency that the times impose such as in making the recent decisions to remove stars from certain restaurants (Le Carré des Feuillants and Le Trou Gascon in Paris, L’Auberge de L’Ill in Alsace)” Read his post here.

So misleading and ambiguous are Poullennec’s exhortations about inspectors that you don’t need to look further than just one sentence from “Le Grand Livre”. He implies that the inspectors vet the nearly 4000 restaurants in France that are on the ViaMichelin website along with going to new addresses. “Le grand livre” is riddled with sloppy proofreading, among them apparently being this puzzling, all-over-the-place sentence: “an inspector eats around 250 meals a year in anonymity, spends 150 nights a year in hotels, effectuates 600 visits and supplies more than 1000 edited reports”. Then this past May in an interview with the site “Fine Dining Lovers”, Poullennec refers to an international “workforce of 500 inspectors” without stating if they are full-time and on the Michelin payroll. If they are, it would cost $5,000,000 for the final annual product, the emptiness of which I discuss below.

Ever since the Pascal Remy book appeared 16 years ago, there have been statements and rumors galore about supposed inspections and inspectors. One competitor, Gilles Pudlowski, publisher of the “Pudlo” guides stated in 2014 that Michelin additionally relies on renown chefs for ratings; Alain Ducasse and the late Joel Robuchon are among those mentioned in other accounts, as is Massimo Buttera for the Italy guide. In Spain Rafael Anson, head of the “Real Academia Española de Gastronomia, is rumored to play a large single-handed role in the distribution of stars in the Spain Guide. The Michelin Travel Partner U.K. shows only eight employees, four of which are in sales and marketing. A restaurateur in Seoul is suing Michelin for being shaken down in a cash-for-stars scheme. Restaurant staffers in Paris have said that bloggers are doing the work of inspectors. The bloggers openly brag about it and proudly pay some of the bill themselves. Contrary to Poullennec saying that the tire company Groupe Michelin pays for the inspectors, according to Caroline Beteta, the head of Visit California which commissioned Michelin to produce its Michelin California restaurant guide, the $600,000 it paid to Michelin Travel Partner is earmarked for hiring inspectors rather than, one would assume, to the costs of producing the guide itself.

Regardless of how many inspectors there may be, how they conduct inspections calls into question the necessity of this supposedly expansive, authoritative inspector network. Recent descriptions of how inspectors go about their work state that they dine alone and anonymously, visit most restaurants one time for one meal and reveal their role if they want further information from the chef. Since the descriptions of each restaurant isn’t dated, the reader has no idea when an inspector was last there, which might be longer than one year, and therefore how up to date the description is. Given the dynamic nature of restaurants that are subject, sometimes suddenly, to a myriad of culinary, financial and personnel manifestations, one visit from one inspector even yearly is inadequate, the exception being when a two-or-three-star restaurant is a candidate for a promotion or downgrade when guide executives make additional visits according to Michelin. Worth noting as well is that Michelin no longer mentions the three-month inspector training program in France it once had, let alone the five-year training program that existed some decades ago. Read details here.

Because of their anonymity, we know nothing about the inspectors. Poullennec says they are former employees of the hotel and restaurant trade. They are reputedly young and work for little money. Some of them stay with Michelin a short time and then turn into restaurant consultants. (Read more here.). This vagueness and secrecy turn Michelin inspectors into window dressing with the ratings or designations determined often, if not mostly, from other sources.

There are many restaurant guides that use more transparent means to evaluate restaurants. Among those that make use of dedicated amateurs and culinary professions are Gilles Pudlowski, publisher of “Guide Pudlo Paris” who has a network of trusted friends, acquaintances, and restaurateurs; the “British Good Food Guide”, which relies on serious diners whom they reimburse for their meals; and the Italian “Identita Golose”, which posts photos and short bios of 111 collaborators of varying ages who range from amateur gastronomic travelers to professional journalists, bloggers and wine and restaurant professionals.

III. The Finished Product: An Exercise in Uselessness.

Most telling about Michelin’s supposed inspectors is what the users ultimately see on its websites and in its guides. Is it really possible to spend supposedly so much time, energy and money—the racing around, the intensive note-taking, the expenses, and the meetings- to end up with putting a number or a symbol to a name and writing the Michelin Inspector descriptions that are never more than 50 or so words, which is the shortest of any restaurant guidebook, and dull as dishwater? Almost all have trite and hackneyed declarative sentences that read as if they have been lifted from the restaurant’s website or provided by its PR company; and there is not, according to the guide, even a so-so restaurant among the nearly 4000 restaurants in France or everywhere else Michelin covers. Also, there is usually not much discernible qualitative difference between the prose for a Michelin Plate restaurant and a three star one. For example, here is the inspector’s comments of Les Prés d’Eugénie-Restaurant Michel Guerard, the three-star restaurant of, many would agree, the greatest living chef in France:

“One of the founding fathers of Nouvelle Cuisine! The dishes served here are delicate, light and inventive… a veritable ode to flavours, simply prepared. The magical setting, which makes for a truly bucolic retreat, deserves a special mention.”

Equally vague and uninspiring is this report on Mirazur, the current “numero uno” on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant rank-order list:

Inside this building that looks out onto the blue skies and the Mediterranean, Mauro Colagreco is at the top of his game. The Argentine chef’s cuisine speaks for itself: a unique and daily ode to aromatic plants, flowers, vegetables from his garden and citrus fruits. An incomparable moment guaranteed.

Or Guy Savoy, co-number one with Le Bernardin, NY, on La Liste 1000:

Guy Savoy, act II, in the Hôtel de la Monnaie, on the bank of the Seine. The setting is sumptuous – six rooms adorned with contemporary works lent by François Pinault –, and the host, true to himself: sincere and passionate, inventive without excess, unfailing generosity. Irresistible!

The long-time culinary historic monument Alain Passard’s Restaurant L’Arpege merits these 34 words that could be taken from just about anywhere:

Precious woods and a Lalique crystal decor provide the backdrop for the dazzling, vegetable – inspired cuisine of this culinary genius. He creates his astonishing dishes from organic produce grown in his three vegetable gardens!

Move down to the lowest rung, Michelin Plate, and you have this example from the Paris restaurant GrandCoeur:

Beams and bare stone, huge mirrors and mismatching furniture, without forgetting the unforgettable terrace – located in a courtyard, this establishment is distinctively stylish. The French cuisine with the occasional international twist is fresh and appetizing. Exquisite!

Or this, Bistro Paradis, Paris:

The bar that used to stand here has been replaced by this elegant, trendy bistro. It has a long and thin restaurant room with light wood fittings and Scandinavian furnishings.The Brazilian chef, formerly of Le Pario, marries French foundations and Latino ingredients. The result is flavoursome and particularly meticulous. One to try out ASAP!

More than once have I read that Poullennec states that the only factor that matters is the food on the plate. It’s something you could never divine from Michelin’s prose. What the inspectors fill their notebooks with apparently never makes it to the finished product. Some of the restaurant descriptions mention certain dishes or types of dishes, but never in detail. The major determinant of the ratings is restaurant politics of which Michelin aggressively avails itself. Poullennec has decided to orient the guides to a young, inexperienced audience and the “épater la bourgeoisie” kind of cuisine, which is why chefs who execute a classic or traditional French dish remain in the lower echelons of the Guide Michelin. For that, why say that the inspectors assess only the food on the plate?


Michelin at the Crossroads: Lawsuits, Downsizing and Bad Press.

As Michelin Travel Partner enters its 20th year since becoming a separate entity from the parent tire manufacturer Michelin SA, the breaking-off can be likened to a billionaire father who tells his college-graduate son that he is now on his own, but if he ever needs $50,000,000 to start a company, all he needs to do is to pick up the phone. How much longer Michelin SA will throw out lifelines is presently unknown, but as Michelin Travel Partner begins the new decade, it nonetheless is carrying much on its Michelin Plate. It is being sued in France and Korea; its various guides in Asia are viewed as suspect and tainted with scandal; in early December it sold Bookatable to TripAdvisor to salvage whatever it could from its unwise purchase (rumored to be around one hundred million euros) four years ago; and hardly a month goes by when the French press doesn’t write a negative story about these events and Michelin’s loss of relevance and influence among the other disseminators of ratings and rank-order lists that exist in the digital dining universe.

Front and center as chief spokesman is the 39-year-old International Director of Michelin Guides Gwendal Poullennec, one of whose jobs it is to put out the continuing brush fires. His problem is that he cloaks himself in self-importance with the result that he comes across as arrogant, humorless, stiff and unappealing. At every opportunity, he invokes his inspectors, who by every indication are a dying breed, perhaps even all but dead. Apparently he has expanded the definition of a Michelin inspector from a full-time cadre of mostly males who allegedly undergo a rigorous training regime in France to also include blogger types who, according to various French headwaiters, are so gaga about carrying out inspections for Michelin that they partially pay for meals and openly brag about the work they are doing. Poullennec makes one wonder if Michelin Travel Partner is too frugal to hire an effective public relations firm.

Nothing has exposed the lack of rigor in the Michelin inspection regime more than Marc Veyrat’s lawsuit. Not only has it received universal attention, but it also strikes at the heart of the competence of the inspectors. (I should add that the execution and the rigor of the inspections and to what extent they exist are highly questionable since the typical inspection is random, carried out by one person and comprised of a single meal—hardly substantial in judging restaurants, which can be variable from one service to the next.) By the time some of you have read this, the decision from the Tribunal of Nanterre will have already come down, but it might be secondary to what Veyrat has exposed. One point that no one seems to have made is what happened to the numerous inspections (including those by the guide director himself) that are supposed to have taken place when a restaurant is a prime candidate to gain or lose a third star. As I write this, two weeks before the decision on December 31, 2019, I see the possibility of a wishy-washy decision in which there is no clear winner. It is hard to imagine a judge trampling on Michelin’s freedom or right of expression by rendering a decision that would by extension be applicable to other guidebooks and newspapers, or wherever restaurant reviewing and rating takes place in France. (Whether the Tribunal awards Michelin the 30,000 euros they are asking for seems unlikely). Yet by calling out Michelin and the glaring mistakes Poullennec revealed during his meeting with Veyrat at Michelin’s headquarters, he (Veyrat) has already won a practical victory. Another wild card here is if the Tribunal grants chefs the right to opt-out of the guide and if it has anything to say about the rigor of Michelin’s anonymous inspections.

Gathering almost as much media play is Michelin’s relatively recent foray into Asia. While the Tokyo Guide hasn’t come under scrutiny, the Korea and Hong Kong ones have. You can read about them in some detail on this site, but since their appearance, the shaken-down woman restaurateur in Seoul has filed a lawsuit. Eater article. Also, Michelin has recently published its first guide to Beijing that is already controversial. Beijing Guide One rumor floating in the background is that Beijing paid Michelin $5,000,000, but so far no one outside of Michelin knows for how many annual editions. With only 100 restaurants listed (TripAdvisor lists of 6000 serving Chinese cuisine in Beijing) the project appears to have been hastily assembled.

Michelin’s sale of Bookatable to TripAdvisor is the most intriguing recent development. Bookatable sale. In return for being bailed out from a restaurant reservations platform that Michelin (perhaps vastly) overpaid for during its frenzy to create a varied on-line presence, Michelin gets to put its ratings besides each applicable restaurant’s name on the TripAdvisor website. Bookatable now becomes absorbed into TripAdvisor-owned La Fourchette. Its (La Fourchette’s) founder Bertrand Jelensperger who now is the head of TripAdvisor’s restaurant sector, claims that “We have not tried to save the Michelin Guides and we do not intend to buy it”. In a head-scratching utterance, Poullennec actually stated that TripAdvisor readers will need to choose between what amateur restaurant patrons write in the TripAdvisor review section of each restaurant and what the supposed Michelin inspectors decide, therefore diluting in one sentence their training and expertise and the awarding and prestige since 1931 of Michelin stars.

What will become of Michelin’s printed guides and websites is yet to be known. Besides the printed guides, there is viamichelin.com, which includes restaurants, hotels, tourist attractions, maps, route planning and weather and guide.michelin.com solely devoted to restaurant information and culinary articles. Regardless of how this plays out, Michelin reached its present state through near-colossal mismanagement, corrupt personnel in high places, and the lack of a vision or visionary leadership. Specifically, Michelin’s need to make the transition from all-print to mostly Internet resulted in costly stumbles from which they may never recover. It has also been overtaken by the sea change in the restaurant’s place in the popular culture that began in the latter part of the last century and comprises advances in technology; the role of both industrial additives and humble ingredients that have internationalized “fine dining” restaurants; restaurants becoming investment vehicles; chefs as conglomerateurs or empire builders with the inevitable dilution in quality; and the culinary media’s glorifying mediocrity that have diminished Michelin’s influence and sources of revenue. It finds itself going up against rating and list mania compared to its glory days when it had a deliberative near- monopoly in the conferring of judgments and ratings. We will have a better idea of whether or how Michelin continues when another shoe drops—if it will no longer exist or carries on in a diminished way. I have heard it said that only a few board members of the tire company; i.e.–Michelin family members who would change their minds if the guide business does  harm to the tire company– keep it from pulling the plug on Michelin Travel Partner. After all, a Michelin star is still very attention-getting and the most prestigious badge a restaurant can have, but to what extent and in what form Michelin Travel Partner can carry on remains for now up in the air.


Speaking of Whistleblowers, Michelin Gets Caught Red-Handed in Korea: An Unfolding Saga.

Late-breaking on November 17 from World Daily. Chef Yoon Yoon-Kwon who owns the Italian restaurant Eo filed a law suit on May 15, 2019 at the Seoul Central Prosecutor’s Office against Michelin Travel Partner, publisher of the Michelin Guides. He had asked that his restaurant, which is listed in the Seoul Guide with a Michelin Plate, be taken out of the guide and accused Michelin. naming  former Asian Guide Director Alain Frémiot  of running a consulting service on the side, entering into contracts with restaurants and giving them advance warning of inspector visits, sharing the evaluations and essentially selling stars. The suit also cites the harm that Michelin has done to the the food industry.

Since the time that the Guide Michelin commissioned in 2015 a guide to Seoul, paid for by the government’s Korean Tourism Organization, journalists and food authorities have questioned the endeavor in terms of the high price the organization is paying Michelin (about $350,000 a year for four years); the incoherence and inconsistencies of the ratings; and even if Seoul’s restaurant scene is worthy of a guide of its own. In addition, there have been rumors of stars for sale in the face of Michelin’s international guide director Gwendal Poullenec’s never failing to mention how Michelin’s vast in-house-trained army of inspectors have, like everywhere else, go about their anonymous visits. Now, however, Yoon Kyung-Sook, the woman who owns the restaurant Yun-Ga Myung-Ga in Seoul has come forward with documents that without doubt show how corrupt the Michelin Guide for Seoul is and how Poullennec and his minions have turned a blind eye to the rumors that are now irrefutable fact.

The essentials of the scandal are presented in this link(  KBS report )to the Korean Broadcasting Corporation’s (KBS) exposé. Yoon Kyung Sook signed this contract in 201587DB1627-03AA-4778-A711-5934A3764504 with the American shown in the video, Ernest Singer, a Tokyo-based wine importer, and the Hong Kong firm Angle Production, owned by a hyper-foodie named Danny Ip. Disliking the situation, she backed out of the contract, a copy of which she provided to KBS along with some Facebook messages she received from Singer.3D413E6F-0899-4FC8-898A-3B443E90EEB8_1_201_aAs a result, her luxurious restaurant, which she spent a large sum to build in time to be in the first guide, was omitted from it. Another journalist, Chang Hoon Lee, wrote that the two three-star restaurants in the guide and a one-star restaurant did pay Singer.

It remains to be seen if the Korea Tourism Organization renews its collaboration for future Michelin Guides, the current contract for which ends with the 2020 edition, which appeared the day after the KBS story. With its credibility now definitively shot, you wouldn’t think so, even though Poullennec stated that Michelin has no intention of ending the guide. However, according to a story in the Korea Joongang Daily. Poullennec said he was considering it. In addition to having conducted an investigation that uncovered no malfeasance, he also made the irrelevant statement that “If someone is asking for money to provide consulting, it is the ultimate evidence that they are not working for Michelin”. It begs the question where is the gatekeeper and what happens when the editorial staff gets together to decide the restaurants that are to be included and with which ratings.  What is certain, however, is that in the face of the questioning and skepticism that has existed since the first edition of the guide, Michelin Travel Partner did nothing anyone can see to prevent the fiasco other than taking the money without taking any remedial action in four years.

KBS has expanded its year-long investigation that includes sending a reporter to Tokyo, zeroing in on Singer and former Asian guide head Alain Frémiot

.A  new report from KBS  appeared on November 14. KBS investigation. The broadcast is in Korean. Here is a summary of it:

There are two restaurants in question, the aforementioned Yoon-Ga Myung-Ga in Seoul and a second Yoon-Ga Myung-Ga in Tokyo that is owned by the older sister Mi-Wol Yoon.

There are two persons in particular who are also connected to these two restaurants:

  1. Alain Frémiot

2, Ernest Singer

The broadcast reports on a series of events related to all four parties, but doesn’t fully explain how all of this came to be, although a scenario isn’t difficult to imagine given the actors and their roles.  However, it goes into some detail about the timing of the events:

– May 2013: Yoon-Ga-MyungGa in Tokyo opens for business.

– August 2013: Alain Frémiot visits Yoon-Ga Myung-Ga in Tokyo with an unnamed gentleman who is a Michelin inspector, and orders the cheapest dish on the menu.

– December 2013: Yoon-Ga-Myung-Ga receives two Michelin stars.

– December 2013: Alain Frémiot brings Ernest Singer to Yoon-Ga Myung-Ga in Tokyo, and introduces him.  Singer offers his services as a consultant, saying something to the effect  that when you open another location in Seoul Korea, I can get you another Michelin star in two years.  At this point, there is no Michelin guide in existence in Seoul, Korea, but Singer has advanced knowledge of it.

– May 2014: Yoon-Ga Myung-Ga opens a new location in Seoul, Korea. For two years, this restaurant in Seoul prepares for a Michelin star following Singer’s instructions, Singer having told the owner that there is a 95% chance that Michelin will be publishing a guide to Seoul.

– January 2015: Alain Frémiot visits Yoon-Ga Myung-Ga in Seoul.

– November 2016: The Michelin Guide for Seoul is published for the first time.

This has been a year of unceasing black eyes for Michelin Travel Partner, especially in its home country. The French press has written negative story after negative story: Renown chef Marc Veyrat is taking it to court this month in a hearing that may expose the myth of Michelin-employed inspectors and the number and rigor of its inspections; the scandals with other guides in Asia; and chefs are realizing that they can depend less on Michelin for their financial well-being. Barely a month goes by without the people in the head office in France either stepping in it or getting stepped on. Now new storm clouds are gathering over Asia.

Update: The story has taken on more intrigue and appears to be headed in an intriguing direction. Chang Hoon Lee of the website World Daily obtained a receipt from the Shilla Hotel (see below) whose Layeon Restaurant is one of the two three-star restaurants in the Seoul Guide, The bill shows what the Shilla owed Ernest Singer for the food he assessed for the guide, his hotel room, a portion of his kickback/consultation fee and some drinks. What is more interesting, however, is that the receipt shows that Singer was/is still  employed by, or does work for, the Robert Parker-founded “Wine Advocate” that Michelin owns a large part of. In 2016 an astute wine blogger, Blake Gray of “The Gray Report” discovered that on the day the “Wine Advocate” published its first saké ratings, the Singer-owned company A Taste of Saké was offering all 78 brands that received 90 or more points in the review. You can read the “Gray Report ” story here. Gray Report . Even more interesting than obtaining the saké clearly before the review appeared is that “Wine Advocate” editor Lisa Perrotti-Brown previously worked for Singer’s Tokyo firm Millesimes. Might there be a fascinating nexus among Singer,Frémiot, Michelin, the Wine Advocate, Lisa Perretti-Brown? Watch this space.






You, Too, Could Become a Michelin Inspector.

In today’s on-line deluge of restaurant scores and rankings, the uniqueness of the Michelin Guides is supposedly their mythic inspection regime. Hardly a month goes by without someone, usually the young international director of the guides Gwendal Poullennec, reminding the restaurant world of some international army of full-time anonymous inspectors blanketing the Michelin Guide universe. Michelin does this honking every chance it gets in interviews with newspapers, magazines and major websites; creating stories such as what it is like to live the life of a Michelin inspector; and generally trying to convince us that its approach is the best and most-trustworthy means of restaurant handicapping.

In the 119-year history of the Guide Michelin and the 86 years since it began awarding restaurants three-stars in France, the use of full-time inspectors didn’t begin until the early 1950s. The authoritative history of the Michelin Guide Trois Etoiles au Michelin, written by Jean-François Mesplede in 1998, only states that at some point soon after 1968 there was a team of 12 inspectors working the entire country. No one questioned the effectiveness or adequacy of the Michelin inspectors until 2004 when a rogue inspector, Pascal Rémy, wrote the tell-all book L’Inspecteur se met à table. Besides writing that some restaurants were untouchable and that many decisions were based on letters from readers, Rémy said that there were only five inspectors for all of France and that some restaurants were inspected once every three and a half years. As for Michelin’s claim that the inspector visits are anonymous and that the inspectors reveal their identity only after they have paid the bill so that they can ask questions, these supposedly anonymous visits come as no unexpected surprise to restaurant owners. Six years ago, in “Gastronomie” Magazine, two journalists identified ten of 13 inspectors, gave their names and work histories and published four photographs of a group of them gathered together for a dinner in Deauville. The article revealed how the chefs were able to know when an inspector had booked a table. Various tip-offs were a person booking a table for two and then changing the reservation to one person since Michelin inspectors always dine alone. At times when an employee took a reservation, but needed to call back because of missed information, he would use the number the call came from instead of the one the diner left. That number would be answered by the switchboard operator in the Michelin office. Employees who swiped the inspector’s credit card could see that the name of the cardholder (the inspector’s real name) was different than the one given for the reservation. And once an inspector identified himself, the chef would call his colleagues in the area and alert them to a possible visit from an inspector, passing along his phone number and the phony name he booked under.

Another questionable aspect of the inspection process is its perfunctory nature. Although restaurants that are on the cusp of receiving its third star have received many visits including those by executives such as the international guide director and the editor of the pertinent national guide, restaurants go for years without being inspected. Apparently two restaurants in France that were demoted from three stars to two in the 2019 guide didn’t receive any visits in the preceding year, according to their chefs. With the paucity of inspectors, one wonders how Michelin determines promotions on the lower echelons such as upgrades from Michelin Plate to one star. Director Poullennec also wants us to know about the rigorous three-month training (down from six) each new inspector receives in France. In the main, however, restaurants receive mostly infrequent visits, but what is as perplexing is how does a single visit from a single inspection qualify as a thorough vetting? We all know that a chef isn’t in attendance for every meal and therefore may not have prepared the meal the inspector ate. Also, restaurants are dynamic and subject to inconsistencies one day to the next. Many of the restaurants most people would want to visit have been vetted by newspaper reviewers who may have recently had four or five meals with three or four other people and ordering most or all of what comes out of the kitchen as opposed to the one tasting menu meal an inspector has. And because the Michelin Guides are annual affairs, one never knows how much time has passed between the inspection and the publishing date of the guide. Finally, because the reviews and possible inspections are anonymous, there is no way of knowing if an inspector set foot inside a restaurant, but rather has read a menu on-line and compiled and rewrote the guides’ trite, platitudinous commentary cobbled together from any number of websites.

As with many enterprises and organizations, there is much to learn by “following the money”, which doing so results in the most cogent reason Poullennec and others keep hammering away in opaque fashion about Michelin’s inspectors and its resulting claim about the superiority and reliability of its ratings.

Prior to 2000, the Michelin guide and maps were woven into the Michelin Tire Company (SCA Compagnie Générale des Établissements Michelin) until it formed the subsidiary Michelin Travel Partner (“MTP”). While the tire company has subsidized MTP by providing loans, sometimes dictating policy and choosing its CEO, currently Pascal Couasnon who came over from Michelin Tires Motorsports Division, MTP in terms of finances and accounting is a separate entity. Until last year, when it reported a small profit of about $4,000,000 on total income of just over $100,000,000, it never in its 18 year history a profititable year. In the middle of this decade, apparently on the advice of the management consulting firm Accenture, it went on a questionable acquisitions spree to orient it towards on-line services and gastronomic resources, most notably 40% interests in Robert Parker’s “The Wine Advocate” and the restaurant guide Le Fooding, as well as paying up for secondary on-line booking properties “Bookatable” and Tablet Hotels. MTP is far from having a clean balance sheet and is heavily reliant on finding tourism bodies such as “Visit California’ and those based in Thailand, Hong Kong and Korea among others with which they have made substantial and often- criticized guide-publishing deals. https://michelinscars.com/2019/07/24/michelin-misguided-1-the-asian-fiasco-as-reported-in-les-echos/ while the French companies-information portal societé.com evaluated MTP’s company rating, financial equilibrium and profitability as all unfavorable.

One can easily make the argument that MTP’s biggest asset is what exists in American and British accounting as “good will” or intangible assets. In Michelin’s case, its most valuable intangible is the expression “Michelin-starred restaurant” or “Michelin-starred chef”, a holdover from the pre-Internet times when Michelin was the proverbial gold standard in restaurant ratings that were to a much larger degree based on anonymous inspections. It is this historical designation deeply ingrained in the food world that attracts travel and tourism organizations to use Michelin to exploit the growing phenomenon of gastronomic indulgence and sightseeing.

Yet, it is the Internet that imperils Michelin. Until the latter part of the 20th-century, people had to pay for Michelin’s information by buying their guidebooks, the print run of each is a small fraction of what it used to be. Today the information is available for free on the ViaMichelin website. Recent surveys into how people choose where to dine show Michelin far behind consensus and social media websites such as TripAdvisor, Yelp and Instagram and, more recently, having to compete with rank-order projects such as the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, La Liste 1000 and Opinionated About Dining (OAD). Apparently, consumers have a fondness for rank-order lists and seeing a name attached to a review or recommendation or rely on qualified reviewers or prestigious media sources. Still, because of Michelin’s historic anonymous inspection regime, it wants us to believe that this is how they still vet restaurants and determine each the rating of each one. Nonetheless, the bottom line is that Michelin can’t afford a meaningful number of full-time inspectors. Keeping one on the road with paying for meals, lodging, transportation and the parsimonious salary Michelin pays likely comes close to $100,000 a year per inspector while bringing in no revenue and producing results that are indistinguishable from, or no more useful, than  other resources that are as highly- regarded and more-widely followed.

This past May in an article with a reporter from the blog “Fine Dining Lovers”, Poullennec said that there was a workforce of 500 inspectors, an assertion that is preposterous by his apparent implication of 500 people who are full-time and have attended Michelin’s training course in France. One, therefore, can only conclude that what redefines a Michelin inspector are bloggers, Michelin employees and then some. Rumor has it that, first, Michelin doesn’t fully reimburse bloggers since they are pleased or honored to be considered Michelin Inspectors; second, that Michelin solicits opinions from chefs, some of whom have been rumored to vet the ratings; and, third, that wealthy regular restaurant clients with day jobs are declaring to restaurant personnel that they are acting as Michelin inspectors. Regardless, it’s these manifestations that have knowledgeable people questioning Michelin Travel Partner’s influence and long-term survival as a trustworthy guide to international restaurant-going.


Beyond Pretense: Memorable Prose from Websites of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

For anyone interested in the state of upper-echelon dining, there is no better way to keep “au courant” than by reading some of the websites of members of the 2019 “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants”. Upon reading, they beg the question “Who writes this stuff?” Several words connoting the sites’ out-sized exaggerations come to mind: “Hyperbole”, “Self-Aggrandizement”, “Hyper-glorification” and “Flights of fancy”. Several themes permeate the verbiage. Paramount among them is that chefs don’t want you to think of them as “just chefs” or even craftsmen that practice a trade whose primary role is providing sustenance even when on a high, rarified and creative plane. This is why a photographer never takes their picture in front of pieces of kitchen equipment or the stuff of kitchens such as stoves; ovens; refrigerators; and knives or cutting boards, but rather bent over a counter holding tweezers, squirt bottles or paint brushes as if making an engraving or painting an icon. Furthermore, these men and women of the kitchen want you to see them as poets, explorers, artists, magicians, philosophers, weavers of dreams and fantasies, narrators and storytellers, and even members of the intelligentsia. Their formula of choice is the no-choice, many-course menu because its singularity, or indivisibility, lends itself entirely to the chef’s dominance, making the client completely passive as if he were attending a musical performance or viewing pictures at an exhibition. The tasting menu* thus becomes a kind of artifact or package, a control-freak means that is incapable of accommodating spontaneity or the tastes, preferences, moods and desires of those who consume it. Stripped of any autonomy or freedom to choose, the client is completely at the mercy of the chef who hopes that you will have read the website and arrive in a state of critical numbness so as to be oblivious to the flaws; susceptible to otherwise nonexistent sensations and emotions; and believing that the chef has done the impossible of making the non-spiritual spiritual by virtue of being a self-proclaimed artist.

*(Two years ago, 24 of the 50 restaurants on the World’s Best list offered tasting menus only. Now this number is 31. Of the 22 websites below, five of these restaurants also offer à la carte menus. (Maido, White Rabbit, Piazza Duomo, Restaurant Tim Raue, and Hof van Cleve.)

I have added the bold type and the underling to emphasize noteworthy verbiage, and made a small number of minor corrections for grammar and punctuation. All the text below is excerpts from the websites. The number before each restaurant name is its ranking on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant list.

1.    Mirazur. (Menton, France)

Through his personal interpretations of ingredients and flavor combinations, Mauro Colagreco has forged a style of his own. He has absorbed his Italian-Argentinian cultural heritage and that of the chefs with whom he trained, and now follows his intuition as he draws on the local culture on both sides of the border. Inspired by the sea, the mountains and the fruit and vegetables grown in his own gardens, Mauro invents colorful, pictorial dishes that play with textures and bold contrasts.

Light, honest, respectful of nature, Mauro’s cuisine expresses itself freely.

At Mirazur, nothing is immutable; everything changes with the seasons, available produce, and the inspiration of the chef.


5. Geranium. (Copenhagen, Denmark)

Thoughtfulness can be tasted.

Geranium’s kitchen is loose, enlightened and dynamic. Our mission is to create meals that involve all our senses-restores, challenges and enriches.


Dynamic means force and stands for the limited forming forces of nature. These forces are not visible, but their biological “footprints” are. The effects can be seen if one learns to observe and understand the connection between the formative forces and the physical matter of all organism.


6. Central. (Lima, Peru)

The Central team, with its ally MaterIniciativa, forms a group of expeditionaries full of curiosity about Peru.

Aware of the lack of connection, we wanted to humbly assume the great challenge of knowing and re-knowing this beautiful country full of unique inputs, landscapes, culture and traditions, stories but,above all, those who live and narrate

Our collaborative team works hard to generate links, and try to make visible elements that in everyday life cannot be seen by everyone.

The expedition that we undertook our beginning has neither destination nor end, but it is centered in the constant movement, in the observation and the respect of the temporality and the seasonality that the earth dictates to us.


7. Mugaritz. (San Sebastian, Spain)

We love to feed our minds…

Feeding curiosity, the senses or desire, we seek to satisfy the hunger of risk, game or answers and to satisfy the pleasure of surprise, of discovering and exploring the unknown.

To achieve this, we question the logic of the gastronomic world, rethinking the social habits and prejudices. We seek to create a context where diners give free rein to their senses to overcome the imposition of customs.

For approximately three hours, and through about 20 creations (discover here our 2017 creations), together we will try to weave a tale of stories, gestures and emotions around the table. And also out of it, flavors, textures and aromas that you can enjoy and feel using your hands to stimulate all the senses and to evoke our more primal customs.


10. Maido. (Lima, Peru)


Life is movement.Nothing is static or absolute. No one is. We are in a state of constant flux just like the Earth, the tides, bacteria, light, the blood in our bodies,colors, seeds. Like family trees, cuisines are constantly being redefined,their identities enriched by an intense intercultural exchange which has formed the basis of all civilization ever since humans shared their first sounds,products, ideas, and customs. Fusion cuisine is just that: cooking, an inclusive word that perfectly encompasses it all. The fireplace is where bloodlines merge, where people come to sing. Individual and group histories are forged; life gestates. The fireplace is where dialogue is fostered, the elements meet, opposites attract. Thus was born Peruvian Nikkei cuisine from a complex history called Peru, and another, equally complex, far-off and foreign history called Japan that merged to live in harmony and create the third reality: Nikkei Cuisine.


13. White Rabbit. (Moscow, Russia)


The great things are always a union and a struggle of opposites; they emphasize and complement each other.The goal of the great things is the balance and harmony of these opposites: There is no sun without a moon, a land without sky, a future without past, life without death, happiness without suffering and good without evil. Contrast is a significant difference of these opposites, antonyms of one field – time,emotions, sensations, location, condition, color, texture, taste. The contrastemphasizes the difference and creates an overall picture, which we see andperceive as holistic and beautiful. In the new set Vladimir Mukhin focuses onthe eternal war and friendship of these opposites both in life and art, and inwork and gastronomy. You will see and feel the contrast between the Past andfuture (time), Heaven and earth (dwelling), South and north (origin), Fire andwater (processing), Light and dark (color), Hard and soft (texture), Cold andhot (feeling), Sweet and bitter (taste), Joy and sadness (emotion). Discovernew tastes and new emotions, and we hope you will become a little bit happier.You decide what through…

 We have also started unique gastronomical performances, which are played in our gastrobar by Vladimir Mukhin and chief-bartender Oleg Reshetnyakov. A fascinating story about a combination of food and cocktails charms and convinces that gastronomy is as much art as literature and painting.


14. Azurmendi. (Bilbao, Spain)

“Connecting with our roots to dream, travel, discover, feel aterritory, and fly to reach the same starting point, Azurmendi is my home”

 The Azurmendi*** restaurant is the place where our culture,customs, and way of doing things walk together towards the future. A sea ofauthenticity where you feel the tradition and the cutting edge. The essence,intensity, and flavor of the cuisine of Eneko Atxa. Eneko Atxa’s cooking is a journey in time, from yesterday to tomorrow, the love for traditions, crafts, and the contemporary, towards a place simply called pleasure. Landmark pleasure.


18. Odette. (Singapore)


“I owe everything that I am to my family, especially my grandmother, Odette. She showed me how the most remarkable dishes can come from the purest ingredient,s and taught me the importance of adding that ‘little something’ to create dishes that excite the palate and fill the heart.

Her devotion to people and ability to demonstrate love through food continue to inspire the Odette experience.”

Julien Royer


Led by Singaporean artist, Dawn Ng, the overall creative direction stems from a deep understanding of Chef Julien’s culinary philosophy.

Titled A THEORY OF EVERYTHING, the body of art explores the visual beauty of raw ingredients from Chef Julien’s kitchen;

 broken down and re-imagined into a surreal universe of shapes and forms that float and settle, drift and pirouette.

 These deconstructed, magnified images of Chef Julien’s most precious ingredients inform every aspect of Odette’s creative design including the aerial installation – the centerpiece of the main dining hall.


22. Narisawa. (Tokyo, Japan)

Forests comprise almost 70% of Japan.
Its coastline is ranked 6th in the world.

Japan is surrounded by forests and seas.
In this limited space,
people cultivate the land and grow rice,
they live and work hand in hand with nature,
with the forests and seas,
and they call this type of place the Satoyama.

Taking the rich culinary culture of the Satoyama,
and the wisdom of our ancestors,
we pass it through the NARISAWA filter
to create a new, independent genre called,
“Innovative Satoyama Cuisine”

Responding to the four seasons,
the severe changes between them,
understanding this environment,
and living our lives taking
only the most necessary resources for daily life
from the earth: this lifestyle is called
Satoyama Culture


The Japanese term,“Ji’nen,”
referring to the spirit of nature,
includes people carrying on
the Satoyama culture like instinct,
together with the natural world.

From this spirit
we at NARISAWA create gastronomy
Beneficial to both body and spirit,
and a continuously Sustainable environment,
which we call,
Beneficial and Sustainable Gastronomy.


Chef Yoshihiro Narisawa


26. Borago. (Santiago, Chile)



In our effort to reflect what the soil gives us, we have brought the best products from a somewhat unusual corner of our planet that we consider invaluable. Our tasting menus collect and combine the best endemic product of the Chilean territory, in continual evolution throughout the year. Much of the food is cut from soils not intervened, by collecting communities and small producers throughout Chile, which is why the dishes can vary even during each course.

The water served in Boragó comes from the rain of Patagonia, with a high degree of purity.

The milk used, especially in our ice cream, is milked by us and comes from natural aging.

We do not have a wine list. In return, we seek to add the effort of family projects full of passion. We have a wine pool. These represent particular conditions in the Chilean territory, occasionally with surprising results.

30 minutes from Boragó, we grow vegetables our way, with maximum use and always in the most natural way.

We understand the restaurant as a provider; One day we can cut a wild fruit that grows three weeks a year at 3,500 meters and the next, unique mushrooms from a forest.

We work without intermediaries, but directly with fishermen.


There are more than 200 collectors and small producers throughout the country. They have the same role as the rest of the team. Unfortunately, they are not visible in our dining room, but without them, we could not even give 10% of the food we offer.

  29. Piazza Duomo. (Alba, Italy)


The personal journey tocreating my contemporary cuisine, both light and beautiful to the eye.

I am Italian, but I have worked in France and then in Japan Each of these elements is clearly visible in my work. Finally, it is a matter of what I want to do, or even better, what I need to do.

Even if I am driven by what is offered from my vegetable garden and this region, there is a moment where my ideas and personality emerge: if these were missing, I would be unable to transmit the energy that I generate when I cook for my guests.


31. Le Calandre. (Rubano, Italy)


“Like a needle pulling through a threadthrough a series of successive holes to create a delicate but sturdy seam,cuisine binds us together without us even being aware of it.”


32. Nerua. (Bilbao, Spain)

Nerua takes its name from the Nervión River,the backbone of Bilbao, which in ancient Latin was called Nerva. We combine innovation with our roots, our surroundings. It is a space designed for a gastronomic and cultural experience.

Nature sets the pace of our kitchen. We adapt to each season without censorship to do the cuisine that we feel. A local cuisine that begins at the vegetable gardens, in the sea, and in the farms.

Our experience is the best technique—we cook with freedom to create pleasure and enjoyment. Faithful to our principles, we defend our environment and the producers who make our goal possible: to be at the cutting edge and to innovate without losing the flavor of our roots.

“Muina”—Basque forcore, heart, or essence—is the soul of our kitchen.

We work on the present to create the future. We apply the steps that make up our creative process, to innovate and be the vanguard.

We start to work on each menu one year before it reaches the hands of our guests to play with the best products of each season—we leave our comfort zone to explore our surroundings with the help of our producers. Our trusting relationship with them helps us to discover new products that will later become a new proposal to be shared with our customers.

We study each product in detail: its origins, its uses throughout history, its qualities… to apply techniques, develop knowledge, and innovate with what we learn.

Above all, we are diners, we understand and enjoy cuisine, and capture this enjoyment in our work.

Each detail is a response to a need. The temperature of the serviette, of the cutlery, coordinated movements

Observation and reflection bring us closer to our cuisine. We invite you to discover sensations, culture, the magic of the preparations, the essence of each product…

We look for wines that reflect the character of the land where they are produced and that capture the personality of who made them—wines that surprise due to the unusualness. We work with producers who know how to interpret what happens in the vineyard, who respect the grape’s identity. Each wine has its own story, written by the producers and told by us, the sommeliers.

We do the pairings with our mind open to the world, to make a journey through different regions, with a clear objective: that the wine accompanies the dishes, that neither of them is left behind, but mutually enhanced.


With the pairings without alcohol, which we offer since 2012, we seek the same goal: to awaken the senses through the dishes and our essences.


35. Atelier Crenn. (San Francisco, California)

Behind an unassuming facade mere steps from the San Francisco Bay, Dominique Crenn offers a multi-course experience in a homey and luxurious dining room. Atelier Crenn is an homage to her father, Allain, with his paintings hung upon the walls. Each guest is greeted with a poem, each line symbolizing a presentation in the meal. The menu is focused on seafood and vegetables, drawing from the memories of her mother’s garden in Brittany through the lens of California product and produce.


The synergy between Dominique and Juan Contreras, the Chef Pâtissier, is evident through his use of food as a means to share a story and reconnect guests with nature. Inspiration for the creations are often very personal and rooted in a sense of constant evolution. The wine list offers a tiered pairing as well as a curated selection of glasses and bottles from our cellar. We select winemakers from around the world that believe in thoughtful stewardship of the land as the key to creating wines of intrigue, varietal expression and regional character.


37. Alinea. (Chicago, Illinois)


“People like to think the creative process is romantic. The artist drifts to sleep at night, to be awakened by the subliminal echoes of his or her next brilliant idea. The truth, for me at least, is that creativity is primarily the result of hard work and study.


38. Hisa Franko. (Kobarid, Slovenia)

Her cuisine is expressive,intense and unorthodox, her philosophy is simple – follow the nature. Take what the season offers, combine the unexpected, don’t be afraid to take risks.


When you come to her restaurant, the first rule is: try to relax, enjoy and put aside any prejudice you might have. When she can fully express her culinary vision and the unique terroir, Ana can create magic.


40. Restaurant Tim Raue. (Berlin, Germany)


He who wants to do what he has to do, is free…

…That’s our guiding principle, an idea that has shaped us-and drives us every day. It is the basis of everything we create and was therefore also the inspiration for our logo, the HUMMINGBIRD.


We associate the hummingbird with aspects such as creativity, uniqueness, and freedom – attributes that also inspired the design of our restaurant, as well as our cuisine and our service.


42. Belcanto. (Lisbon, Portugal)

At Belcanto, José Avillez offers a unique gastronomic and sensory journey.

Here he offers a contemporary Portuguese cuisine

in a sophisticated setting that takes us on a journey in time,

from Chiado’s old romantic past to the future.

“The light, the life and the people.

The history, the sea, our regions.

Portugal. This is where we live and grow, are inspired, tread.

Cuisine is our fado, our way of expression. “

…..José Avillez

Belcanto offers some of the best Portugese flavors

in different menus that recreate, reinvent

and take the traditions of Portuguesecuisine further.

At Belcanto, we cultivate some of the fundamental traits of Portuguese culture and identity.

– hospitality, attention to detail and genuine care with those who sit at our table.

We take great pride in our country’s exceptional products

spread out through different, contrasting terroirs.

At Belcanto, we tell the long story of Portugese cuisine.

The ingredients and technique, the dedication and passion of each cook and each waiter.

The search for the perfect balance between creativity, the new, the unique and unknown,

with the classic, the ingredient, the raw material in its most natural state,

as it arrives at our door, with the least intervention.

The disturbing realization that there may be magic in the simplest,

most obvious, ultimate detail of a creative surge.

Emotional memories, re-encountering the past

and the transformation of unique recollections captured in a bite.

The heritage of a fascinating past discovering new seas, lands, peoples and products.

Exploring a bustling present and passionately imagining the future.

We are history, memory, knowledge, creativity, dream, emotion and action.

The chicken or the egg, traditional or vanguard,

who came first, what stirs us, deepens our feelings and makes us travel.

Yesterday, today or tomorrow – a dateless, timeless cuisine, with all the time in the world.

Apparently hermetic at times, again and again constantly evolving.

A startling journey through a whirlwind of emotions?”


…..José Avillez


43. Hof van Cleve. (Kruishoutem, Belgium)


You and I have a lot in common: we won’t compromise in choosing the best in life, unrivalled enjoyment, professional craftsmanship.

At Hof van Cleve, every dish you taste is a masterpiece of robust teamwork, based on values like authenticity, respect and solid effort. Every day, I set myself and my colleagues anew the challenge of topping yesterday’s achievements, being inspiring and taking a keen look at the world around us. Life is beautiful! Join us in tasting its joys.


Tasting is something you do with all five senses. So we’ve given painstaking thought to each detail, from your arrival to our parting handshake. The level we reach in the kitchen is continued in our style and interior design.

At Hof van Cleve, you will be dining in a truly special setting created by Belgian designers and artists. They are without exception experts in their craft whose creations exude authenticity, character and spirit. One-off furniture pieces, specially-designed cutlery and tablecloths, drinking glasses, lighting and even our tailored costumes; they all add to the refinement of the atmosphere.


What drives me with renewed vigor every day is my passion for culinary delectation. I certainly wouldn’t want to say, though, that Hof van Cleve was all my own achievement. My wife Lieve and all the members of our team are people with the enthusiasm to give their all day after day for you. Their talent and elbow grease free me to be creative and innovative, to be and to stay excellent.

Only if you leave us happy, inspired and with a smile will we have attained our goal, which is making outstanding cuisine a total experience.


To have your kitchen awarded Michelin stars, you must have only the best ingredients. I am not a man to compromise, I go only for true quality. My conscious choice is to use local specialities from Belgian soil and waters. The regional horticulturalists, farmers, growers,fishermen, huntsmen and cheese-maturers who work with us are passionate about giving us the very best they can. I consider myself privileged to be in a position to work with so much local fresh produce.


Of course, I don’t imagine that quality ends at the Belgian border: international ingredients add a special touch to my creations. After all, dining delectation is all about balance, authenticity and subtlety of nuance.


45. Sühring. (Bangkok,Thailand)


After years of working experience in Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Thailand, Thomas and Mathias settled down in a charming 1970s villa situated in the heart of Bangkok. Without altering the soul of the house, they remodeled it and opened the dream they always had: a place for their creativity that they can call home and invite their guests and friends to discover their renewed vision of German gastronomy.


Sühring showcases the best of modern German fare inspired by childhood memories, family recipes and years of traveling experience combining the essence of traditional dishes with contemporary Central European influences. All elevated to the level of haute cuisine. Mathias, Thomas and the Sühring team invite their guests to their home, offering a warm hospitality in a relaxed, yet elegant environment.


The dynamic kitchen is designed for the full Sühring Erlebnis only. It showcases the best of modern German fare inspired by childhood memories and family recipes. All elevated to the level of haute cuisine and combining the essence of traditional dishes with contemporary Central European influences. The menu reflects the chefs’ philosophy of quality, seasonality and simplicity.


Sample the Sühring Erlebnis and take a step into a culinary journey. From the first bite to the last, the menus reflect the chefs’ philosophy of quality, seasonality and simplicity. The creations change continuously according to the season and the ingredients passing through the kitchen. 

46. De Libreje. (Zwolle, Netherlands)

Jonnie and Thérèse: ‘We all eat and drink every day, but what we really enjoy is making that every-day routine a special experience, and to share our love of fine foods and beautiful wines with you. We were both born and bred in the region around Zwolle. We spent our childhood catching pike perch, picking water mint, searching for mushrooms, sneaking the punt into the decoy. In that kind of environment, how could you not fall in love with all those fabulous regional products?

 Many people consider these to be our specialty. But to us,it feels more like we’re special because we don’t actually have a specialty. When you cook and serve a meal with a generous heart, and you put something of yourself into it, it all becomes special. Together with the team, we discover and explore the ingredients of a loving relationship between wine and food every day. We love sharing our discoveries with you, and to treat you to a wonderful experience without any fuss. We love going that extra mile for you.’ 

48. Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet. (Shanghai, China)

We eat more myths than calories. The psycho taste is everything about the taste but the taste.

It is avant-garde, yes. But figureative avant-garde. Not abstract, but flesh and bone.

The psycho taste

is everything about the taste

but the taste. It is the expectation and the memory, the before and the after, the mind over the palate.

It is all the factors that influence our perception of taste. See a tomato, and your mind will call upon its memory to tell you its taste.  Smell bread baking, and you can taste the finished loaf.  This subconscious outcome is at work all around us. Salivation is a primary tangible effect of the psycho taste. . .  on you.. . on this lion too.  We all psycho-taste before we taste. Ultraviolet incorporates technology traditionally used in unrelated fields to drive and control the psycho taste and enhance the perception of food.


Critically acclaimed avant-garde gastronome Paul Pairet has always caused a stir in the kitchen. He was first-introduced to Shanghai’s diners as the Chef de Cuisine of Jade on 36, but has now moved on to his highly acclaimed new project, Mr & Mrs Bund. Every month he treats readers to the good, the bad and the spectacular world of high-class cuisine.

Let’s get wild Darling! Tonight, I’ll take you out to a fancy restaurant. I’ve heard about this place.

– Je Ne Sais Quoi – I’ll make the reservation. Rrriing, rrriing . . . “Allo?”

(I know that this ringing simulation isn’t crucial to the overall understanding of the column, but I’ve always felt it’s important to create an atmosphere, set the stage and immerse the reader in the action. Call it my Spielberg touch!)

Michelin Misguided 1: The Fiasco in Asia Shows its Corporate Culture.

Since the publication in January of the 2019 “Michelin Guide France”, the major French media such as “Le Monde”, “Figaro”, “Le Point”, and “Les Echos” among them, have written several critical articles about Michelin. Alway through the pronouncements  of International Michelin Guide Director Gwendal Poullennec, the company so far is incapable of making  full-throated, convincing responses. It appears that opinion is starting to turn significantly against the guides’ parent company Michelin Travel Partner.

The following story recently appeared in “Les Echos”, France’s “Wall Street Journal”. I am glad to have come across this not-widely-circulated story as I feel that the Hong Kong-based journalist Julie Zaugg, who wrote the story titled “La Cuisine Douteuse du Guide Michelin en Asie/The Doubtful Cuisine of Michelin’s Asian Guides” and did the research, deserves a wider readership. That her reportage is about Michelin’s activities half a world away doesn’t obviate the fact that Michelin Guides’ corporate culture isn’t overly concerned about integrity no matter where. In other words, what plays in Asia doesn’t stay in Asia. Because this article is copyrighted and behind a pay wall, I provide this fulsome summary:

There is nothing in Julie Zaugg’s research and article that is positive for the publisher of the Michelin Guides. The remarks offered by Gwendal Poullennec, the International Director of Michelin Guides, are standard issue.”We use the same criteria to judge Asian and Western cuisine, and these are applied all over the world with the same rigor, which gives a real homogeneity to our selection process.” And,“Our inspectors are all salaried and trained by us”. “This is a rigorous process. They are not considered confirmed until after three years with us. They travel a lot and never go to the same place twice.”

Zaugg’s findings show otherwise. To write her article, she visited dozens of restaurants, interviewed 15 restaurant critics, bloggers, chefs and restaurateurs who know the geographic areas in question because they live and work there. She also writes about the murky financing and ‘pay for play” that created, with the exception of the Japan guide, the seven other Asian guides.

Among the one-star restaurants visited, she cites one in Hong Kong that served her salty noodles. a bland goose and pig “with the consistency of rubber”. Another has a decor reminiscent of off-track-betting cafes in France, white table clothes with holes, a large-screen TV and shark fin soup, which has been banned in the European Union since 2013 because of cruel fishing methods. Also receiving a star was a curry stall unknown to local critics serving Indian dishes prepared by a Hong Kong chef. After people posted on-line videos of rats in the windows and complaining of food poisoning, the stall closed

Zaugg’s research and interviews determined that undeserving restaurant received stars, and that “recognized institution are deprived of them” She mentions two dim sum “factories” that serve several hundred people a day (“When serving 300 customers several times a day, how can you claim to be doing meticulous work with the product, as the criteria of the Michelin Guide require?” asks a Hong Kong restaurateur who wishes to remain anonymous), while in Shanghai the situation with two and three-star restaurants is indicative of star inflation. Renown restaurant critic Andy Hayler who has dined throughout the world in more restaurants with Michelin stars than anyone states, “I recently went to Shanghai to test the Michelin-starred restaurants and they all have one star too many” Similarly, the two establishments with three stars in Seoul, ‘Gaon’ and ‘La Yeon’, are “shockingly disappointing.” Hayler also goes on to say that a one-star in Europe systematically becomes a two or a three-star in Asia.” It’s a point disputed by Michelin’s Poullennec who said, “A three-star always has the same value whether it is in China, Japan, France or the United States.”

Disconcerting to chefs and critics is the rapidity with which some newer restaurants in the Asia guides receive stars in contrast to ones in Europe, some of which have waited years to be rewarded. Conversely, restaurants that have been in existence  for a long time received none. The inclusion of food stalls, some with stars, also baffled some food critics. For example, how could  Michelin decide which to include when there are thousands. “In Singapore, locals don’t understand why two stalls serving simple noodles with chicken or pork each received a star. “This means that they are the two best street food vendors in the city when it is physically impossible for Michelin inspectors to test the thousands of stalls there as they would for restaurants. notes Aun Koh, a food critic based in Singapore.”This sounds like an arbitrary choice. Poullennec defended the inclusion of food stalls this way: “In Hong Kong, Singapore or Thailand, there is a real street food culture. We wanted to promote this local particularity”. He also defends Michelin’s rather rapid expansion in Asia (Other than Japan, all the other Asia guides have been created only in the last three to four years) and elsewhere stating, “Choosing a new destination is a careful process. The city must have a gastronomic ecosystem that has reached a certain level and an audience for this cuisine,” he says. However, the Shanghai food critic Zhong Nin laments the omission of Beijing among the Asia guides, stating “it has the most diverse and sophisticated Chinese cuisine in the country,” in comparison to Guangzhou (Canton) which has its own Michelin guide.

Serious observers also complain that the Asia guides are geared toward tourists who are passing through, and described the inspectors as being ignorant of local culinary traditions. One such person in Bangkok called the guide for Thailand”outdated and touristy, as if the inspectors had simply copied and pasted the list of restaurants appearing in TripAdvisor.”

Other complaints centered around “safe” establishments as exemplified by the majority of starred restaurants in Shanghai being in hotels, having menus in English and serving Cantonese dishes. Some restaurants that have branches in other cities where they also received stars. One chef in Shanghai even called it “playing the safety card”.

As is almost always the case, filthy lucre raises the biggest stench. Unlike the self-financed Michelin guides of the past, the Asian ones among the recently-created other ones are being financed by national and regional organizations promoting tourism, and corporate sponsors including hotel chains with restaurants. Not surprising, they have created conflicts of interest. The government of Thailand signed a five-year deal for close to $5,000,000 for five years; Seoul around $1,700,000 to produce its own book. Michelin falsely stated that the Hong Kong tourist board financed its guide, only to retract the statement becaue it was sponsors that included Melco casino hotels; Mercedes-AMG, the restaurant booking site Chope. Badoit, Evian and Nespresso. In Singapore, “the sponsor list includes Resorts World Sentoas, whose restaurants garnered in 2016 seven of the 29 stars awaded in Singapore; Chope; American Express; Badoit; Evian; and Nespresso”.

The tourist offices in Hong Kong and Singapore are ‘also bound by a marketing contract to the Robert Parker Wine Advocate newsletter, which is 40% owned by Michelin. The contract provides that these bodies will contribute to the costs of promoting the guide. These arrangements were created because of a financial imperative’ brought on by the Internet virtually destroying the demand for printed guidebooks. Despite these entanglements, Poullennec states that Michelin ” maintains absolute editorial independence” and that the choice of destinations “remains entirely within the purview of Michelin”.

In its constant search for revenue sources, Michelin is no longer the hands-off institution it used to be. With the participation of the tourist boards and sponsors, Michelin is firmly in the paid- events business. As Julie Zaugg  documented, “Tickets for a gala held in 2016 at a Macau casino that was attended by a coterie of Michelin-starred chefs and Manuel Albarran, a costume designer who worked for Madonna and Beyoncé, cost 2,000 euros per couple that included a night in a hotel.” She also writes that, as many experts believe, that this sponsorship system has led to star inflation. ” And to quote Andy Hayler,”When Michelin decides to launch a guide in a city, you have to find (create) Michelin-starred restaurants to include.”

Zaugg concludes her story with the foreboding news for Michelin that two companies have launched restaurant guides that are based on anonymous inspections, local critics and consensus algorithms. “Enough to make Michelin break into a cold sweat”.



Another Great French Chef Tells Michelin to Get Lost: Marc Veyrat Talks with the Paris Newspaper “Le Point”.

Marc Veyrat at his Alpine Restaurant “La Maison des Bois”

My note: One must be beginning to wonder if the major French newspapers are no longer pulling punches in their Michelin coverage, while at the same time some chefs are realizing that not cow-towing to the guide isn’t so scary after all, as social media and other sources for word of mouth can deliver clientele. We are willing to go out on a limb and say that International Michelin Guides Director Gwendal Poullennec punished Veyrat for not wearing the Michelin Jacket at last year’s awards ceremony and that the inaccurate and feeble criticism of the two dishes mentioned below came from readers of the guide and not from any Michelin inspector as Veyrat makes obvious that no inspector came to his restaurant.

The Interview

The great chef Marc Veyrat, who lost his third star in January has thought about ending his career. He will decide in September if he will return his two Michelin stars.

“Bonjour, please call me as soon as possible”. It was with this very short SMS at the speed of an SOS that Marc Veyrat asked us to contact him Saturday. This great chef crowned three times with three Michelin stars and twice 20/20 in the Guide Gault & Millau needed to speak with us. To speak of the unjust loss of his third star one year after gaining it at La Maison des Bois in Manigold in the French Alps. During this 30-minute phone interview with “Le Point”, the 69-year-old chef maintained that he was victimized by buzz from Michelin and didn’t take well the interview he had at Michelin Travel Partner headquarters in Boulogne-Billancourt. “They want me to go back to the first grade” he stated–“like a rebel”. Call it confessions of a depressed person who has dark visions. Veyrat will decide in September if he will give back his two stars.

Le Point: Why have you decided to break your silence?

Marc Veyrat: I wouldn’t take the floor, but today it seems necessary. I am uneasy about the curved road Michelin has taken. Before they rewarded the exceptional; now they reward the sensational. They no longer judge the cuisine but everything that happens around it. For some years they even have been financed in several countries by tourism offices. Where is the independence? I am nervous about what the young chefs in France will go through with this system, which is no longer the DNA of Michelin.

Le Point: You imply that you have been victimized by this change in orientation with the loss of your third star this year.

Marc Veyrat: To accept gaining stars is also to accept losing them. I know perfectly well the rules of the game, and they are not allocated for life. I already gave back three stars when I closed my Auberge de l’Éridan à Veyrier-du-Lac (of Annecy) in 2009 for health reasons, and I lived very well without it. The taking back of my third star at La Maison des Bois in  Manigod was a monumental blast of buzz for Michelin, which is disconnected from reality as they are losing momentum because of no longer selling as many paper guides in France. Downgrade Veyrat: That carries a lot of weight!  Some of my colleagues told me that I also paid a heavy price by refusing to wear a Michelin jacket at the 2018 ceremony in Paris when I receive my third star.

Le Point: Something must have happened concerning a dish in order for Michelin to have downgraded you to two stars.

Marc Veyrat: I asked for a meeting at Michelin headquarters. My companion and I met with Gwendal Poullennec, the International Director of Michelin Guides and one of his colleagues for an hour and a half at 9 a.m. on March 12. When I asked him why I lost my third star, he put forth two justifications: “You put in one of your dishes a simple slice of cheddar. We also noticed that your scallops were cottony”. I remained speechless because first it wasn’t cheddar, but a technically difficult preparation based on Beaufort that I use in one of my classics “Le torchon disparaissant de Mémé Caravis”. Furthermore, it is impossible that my scallop dish is cottony because as I cook it in a shell of passion fruit. How can one have so much power when being so ignorant? I was sitting face-to-face with an amateur. I got up to leave the room and he returned to look for me at the moment that I was walking out the door of his office. The current director of the guides isn’t at the level of a Bernard Naegelen, director of the Michelin guides until 2009.

Le Point: Haven’t you come to terms with this interview?

Marc Veyrat: I will never come to terms with it. I am convinced that a Michelin inspector never came to inspect La Maison des Bois. No inspector presented his card. I asked for proof of a bill. They replied that it wasn’t ethical. If Michelin has nothing to hide, why not provide me with a bill? Let them do it and later we will be able to discuss it. I resent the arrogance and the lack of humanity against me. I’m nearly 70 years old. I have nearly 50 years of cooking behind me. I have formed or trained many chefs with Michelin stars, and Michelin wants me to return to first grade. It’s forbidden to take away a third star from Marc Veyrat. They can give it back, but the sadness will be eternal and never erasable. Michelin will never be able to repair the terrible hurt it did to me.

Le Point: You contend that the level of your cuisine hasn’t dropped.

Marc Veyrat: The best point of reference is the clients and professionals who come back. My regulars repeat to me that I am even stronger than when I had three stars in Veyrier-du-Lac or my three stars in Megève. My cuisine now has never been as modern and creative. It is mineral-like, pastoral, biological, singular and, above all, anchored in its terroir. I have the eggs from my chickens; the milk of my cows; the meat from my farmers; the fish from my ponds; the vegetables from my gardens; the herbs that I gather every morning from my two botanists in the mountains; the bread from my own baker. Who does that in France, in Europe, in the world? I even created in 2017 my foundation that oversees healthy foodstuffs for our future generations.

Le Point. In what circumstances did you learn that you had lost your third star?

Marc Veyrat. My company received on its mobile phone Sunday, January 20 at 7:54 P.M., the day before the ceremony of Michelin, a SMS from the international director: “Bonjour Monsieur Veyrat, I wish you the best for the new year. Would it be possible to call me back when you have this message, please? Sincere salutations, Gwendal Poullennec, Michelin Guides”. I was asleep after finishing Sunday lunch, the last service of the week. My company woke me up. I called Gwendal Poullennec back who told me the bad news with this laconic phrase: “We are obligated to take away one star”. It was surreal. By SMS he gives me his best wishes for 2019 and by telephone he announces to me that I lost my third star. It shocked me!

Le Point; Has this downgrade had any consequence on your business?

Marc Veyrat: No, not at all. Well to the contrary. My revenues are even up 10% compared to a year ago.

Le Point: How have you comported yourself five months after the loss of your third star?

Marc Veyrat; I’ve been depressed since January 20. It’s as if my parents died a second time. You can imagine the pain that I feel. I am the only chef in history to have gotten a third star only to lose it the following year. Every morning I wake up with that in my head. I am worn out. I have trouble sleeping, I barely eat. I cry. I feel anxious. I take some treatments and medications. I’ve have had dark thoughts. I imagine the worst. It repeats in my head. I’ve wanted to rejoin my friend Bernard Loiseau up above. My company has been afraid. It hides my pills, my hunting rifle. If I’m still here, it’s because of my girl friend and my four children.

Le Point. Do you envision giving back your two stars?

Marc Veyrat: Several chefs have encouraged me to do that. If I return them, I will be completely liberated. I’m giving myself the summer to think it over, and I will make up my mind in September.

Another Famous Parisian Chef Dumps on Michelin.

Cyril Lignac, well-known to food show watchers in France and owner of four restaurants including the Michelin one-star Le Quinzième has decided to close next month the restaurant, stating that cooking for inspectors is inhibiting his culinary muse along with other pernicious effects that are infecting restaurant cuisine in general. You can read about it here.


The Michelin/Visit California Guide Rush

“The Michelin Guide is approaching the assessment of California restaurants the way it has in other locations around the world for decades – with unrivaled integrity, independence and expertise. The partnership does not allow Visit California any say in which restaurants will be assessed or what the outcomes of the assessments will be.”

Such were the words of the director of Visit California ( the non-profit tourism marketing organization) Caroline Beteta as she announced an agreement with Michelin Travel Partner (“Michelin”) to publish a restaurant guide to California to add coverage to what was Michelin’s guide to San Francisco. The guide adds Los Angeles, Orange County, Santa Barbara, Monterey, Sacramento and San Diego restaurants. The renewable agreement is for one year with Visit California paying $600,000, ostensibly for additional inspectors.

With pronouncements vouching for Michelin’s “unrivaled integrity, independence, and expertise”, Beteta was apparently unaware of, wasn’t in a position to know about, or chose to ignore, events in Michelin’s recent history that created the transformation of the Michelin Guides from an unbiased source of rectitude, inscrutability, deliberateness, and discretion to one that has refashioned itself in the digital age by engaging in commercial ventures and activities as the sales of its guidebooks have fallen. This has turned Michelin into a debt-ridden, mismanaged enterprise that relies on the restaurants that it rates to realize revenue and that is more interested in being part of the culinary media circus instead of adapting to the present in ways that mostly preserve the qualities that it once had. This transition began following the departure in 2003 of Derek Brown, who was replaced by Jean-Luc Naret as the International Director of the Michelin Guides. Naret’s seven-year tenure was marked by conflicts of interest; the beginning of commercializing the guides; and turning chefs into sources of revenue. A former member of the Michelin Corporation Executive Committee who had intimate knowledge of the Naret period remarked that a period of corruption ended with Naret’s departure.

In 2007, Naret began commercializing practices by breaking the taboo of never permitting restaurants in the guide to indicate that they are in it. He offered restaurants the opportunity to buy small posters and decals to display in the restaurant and the front door. Jean-Claude Vrignat, the beloved owner of the Paris institution Restaurant Taillevent, published on his blog the obsequious and subtly coercive letter he received from Naret, followed by this reply:

“You have turned over to an outside company the managing of these decals in order, according to your form letter, to guarantee the (restaurant’s) independence of choice. I congratulate you! But when your inspectors come to visit our restaurants, they will clearly see the presence or absence of this sign of recognition. What will their reaction be towards those who don’t accept your friendly proposal”?

In the same year, Michelin joined forces with the French gift-certificate-in-a-box company Wonderbox to offer a variety of meals at modest to expensive restaurants. It has attracted a large number of participants, now about 325 in Paris alone. You can purchase the smiling Bibendum “coffret” from a participating restaurant’s website. The participation by the restaurants is a bad deal for them as 30% of the price of the meal goes to Wonderbox which, in turn pays a percentage to Michelin and large chain stores that may have sold the box.

Naret had no qualms about engaging in corporate nepotism by using Michelin Guide chefs to benefit his family. In 2008, his girlfriend and soon-to-be wife Colette Poupon of the mustard dynasty started a consulting agency for chefs named “Co & Cie” whose best-known client and face of the agency was Joel Robuchon, thereby creating a situation in which the wife uses the husband’s position of doling out stars to obtain what were apparently numerous clients. Of lesser magnitude, but still a situation that insures a chef from being downgraded, Naret’s son Thomas was taken in by Alain Ducasse to be a food and beverage management stagière at La Bastide de Moustiers in Provence.

In 2011, Naret was replaced as head of the guides by the well-regarded American Michael Ellis. In following the advice of the management consultant firm Accenture to expand into related on-line services, Michelin acquired in January of 2016 the London-based Bookatable, a platform for accepting and managing reservations and configuring tables; tracking customers throughout their meals; noting clients’ preferences; and more. Michelin charges restaurants a monthly subscription for its Bookatable program of 49, 59 or 99 euros a month, depending on which package a restaurant chooses, as well as two euros for each person in a reservation party. Not subscribing has its consequences for chefs, as you can read below.

After an otherwise ethically uneventful period of six years other than in Asia (see the addendum for examples of corruption and influence-peddling there) Michelin hired Alexandre Taisne in April of 2017 to oversee strategy and development of gastronomy and tourism. Later one would learn that Taisne took liberties with his resumé. His Paris art gallery Toast did become just that. He claimed there were other Toast galleries where there weren’t any according to official registries of commerce. He also falsely claimed to have launched Groupon France, which was actually created by the German company Rocket Internet. In April of 2018, Taisne replaced the retiring Claire Dorlan-Clauzel as director of Gastronomic and Tourism Activities and Selections of the Guide, the top position in Michelin Travel Partner. Six months later Taisne was gone, but not before having a hand in Michelin’s questionable purchases of 40% interest in both Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and Michelin Guide’s rival restaurant guide Le Fooding and licensing the Michelin Guide name and logo for the branding of kitchen supplies sold in major stores. According to his Linked-In page, he hasn’t done anything since. He also hasn’t been heard from either, whereabouts unknown. His replacement Patrick Couasnon was previously in charge of Michelin Tire’s Motorsport Division.

Coincident with the departure of Taisne, Gwendal Poullennec, age 38, who has been with Michelin since 2003 replaced Michael Ellis in September, 2018 as International Director of the Michelin Guides. In Michelin’s press release, it stated that in his new role Poullennec will “continue to embody the values of generosity, passion and independence, which are dear to the Michelin Group, and lead the global team of Michelin inspectors”.

When the 2019 Guide Michelin France appeared, it became clear that Poullennec was out to change the orientation of Michelin Travel Partner in what looks to be a heavy-handed way. You can read elsewhere on this site (“A Great Chef Goes Toe-to-Toe with Bibendum”) how Poullennec took a star away from each of the revered 67-year-old chef Alain Dutournier’s two restaurants and delisted his bistro, apparently in retribution for Dutournier’s dislike of Poullennec’s former boss Jean-Luc Naret, once having called him a clown. Poullennec also took away third stars from two of Dutournier’s contemporaries, the legendary chefs Marc Haeberlin and Marc Veyrat, details of which are below. Poullennec’s disdain for the classic, long-lived and traditional is disconcerting and worrisome to many. Poullennec is also known to punish chefs (15 in the Vosges alone) who don’t subscribe to Michelin’s Bookatable service by omitting them from the guide and then phoning to remind them of the consequences, as he did to an admired veteran chef of a restaurant in Paris’s 15th arrondissement. https://www.vosgesmatin.fr/edition-d-epinal/2019/02/01/la-facture-indigeste-du-guide-michelin-dans-les-vosges?preview=true&fbclid=IwAR392QfuoHpUunSs0iRngV_-EmoJNyNklmB0EEbdwNKGqAe2BM4da6xPbPE ) It’s not surprising that he likes to refer to himself as “El Jivaro”, a member of the indigenous people of Ecuador and Peru who hunt and then shrink heads.

II. Inspections

In his announcement to the press on March 5, 2019, Mike Testa, CEO of Visit Sacramento who conceived the plan to bring in Michelin Travel Partner to create a California guide stated, “California’s ground-breaking partnership with Michelin will expand and elevate the global profile of the state as a food destination, bestowing world-class status on hundreds of restaurants in the prestigious series of books, from three-star establishments to local favorites awarded the ‘inspector recommended’ designations, Plates and Bib Gourmands.”

For Guide Michelin’s first 71 years of rating restaurants, no one questioned its inspection protocol, the assumption being that Michelin had enough inspectors working in anonymity who somehow managed to visit at least once a year the large universe of restaurants in the Michelin Guide countries which already had at least one star and those that could in any year earn one. This impression lasted until 2004 when Pascal Remy, a 16-year Michelin inspector wrote the exposé ” L’Inspecteur se Met â Table” (“The Inspector Sits Down at the Table”). https://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/25/dining/michelin-man-jolts-french-food-world.html.

Among the revelations of the solitary, underpaid life of eating two restaurant meals a day and staying in cheap hotels, Remy divulged that there were no more than five Michelin inspectors for all of France and that most restaurants received visits once every two to three years. The International Director of Michelin Guides Derek Brown incredulously tried to cover-up by stating that there were 70 inspectors who were shuffled around Europe wherever needed. Seven years later, another inspector went rogue; this one working the Benelux Guide:


Although inspector visits were ostensibly sub-rosa, chefs have readily identified them by the coding on their bank cards, and even sent snapshots of them to their colleagues. In the ensuing years. Michelin has refused to divulge the number of inspectors involved in its restaurant analyses. However for the 2019 Guide Michelin France, Marc Veyrat, who lost a third star asked Michelin for proof of a visit during the previous year (a request Michelin ignored) while In the Auvergne, Sebastian Bras, who Michelin left out of the 2018 Guide at his request, surprisingly (because of no sign of an inspector visit) found his restaurant Le Suquet in the 2019 guide minus the third star it had in 2017. More interesting is Michelin’s recent claim on the “Fine Dining Lovers” website that they have “a workforce of 500 inspectors”. Were this the case, Michelin would be spending half or more of its gross revenues on the cost of 400 meals a year (most in little-known restaurants) per inspector plus their salaries and expenses in order to put a symbol next to a name and write mundane, easily-available restaurant description. That most restaurants that receive visits are judged on the basis of a solitary diner ordering one meal shows a lack of rigor, especially compared to newspaper critics who make several visits to a restaurant with a group of fellow diners, often noting inconsistencies in a dish from one visit to the next.

This raises the question as to how Michelin decides its designations in all of its guides, be they in the thousands of Michelin Plate and Bib Gourmand restaurants and the restaurants with stars. One can only surmise that the vast majority of their ratings is some home-brewed mix of employees’ experiences; reports from its readers; word of mouth; its guide book competitors; studying all-inclusive dynamic sites such as Trip Advisor and Yelp; mainstream media sites; and blogs. Furthermore, a candid evaluation of the Michelin Guide restaurants is lacking since the description of every restaurant in the guide and on the Michelin website reads as if it were written by the restaurant’s owners or PR agency.

Of course, no one knows at this early stage how successful, good, and long-lasting the California alliance will be. ( Visit California was prudent by signing only a one-year contract with Michelin.) Yet, an “Eater LA” story revealed two months before the June 5th publication of the California Guide that Michelin was asking Instagram account-holders for their photos from certain Los Angeles restaurants, making one wonder if the guide will look like a rush project. Conceptually, there is a conflict between Visit California, an organization that has the role of generally promoting both the state’s restaurant trade and California as an eater’s paradise, and that of Michelin, which is to rate certain restaurants while eliminating others from its guide. With all restaurants contributing money to Visit California according to how much money they realize from visitors coming from at least 50 miles away, how will the those omitted from the guide feel about being excluded?

Other unanswered questions of the Michelin/Visit California collaboration are, if the $600,000 is only to pay for additional inspectors, what is in it for deep-in-debt Michelin Travel Partner? Has Visit California given them the license to hold various corporate-sponsored, commercial profit-making events? Is it paying Michelin for the use of its name? Did it agree to purchase a significant number of printed guides? Are there merchandising, promotion, publicity or other profit-making opportunities involved for Michelin? What editorial rights does Michelin have and what rights of approval, if any, does Visit California have concerning the publication and the Michelin website?. Such questions and Michelin’s history and past performance should be on the minds of the decision-makers as they decide if there will be a 2020 Michelin Guide for California.


Addendum: Michelin’s Little Red Books

Nowhere has the integrity of Michelin Travel Partner been more called into question than in Asia where there are now seven guides. With the large number of Asians and Asian restaurants in California, we provide these links:

Credibility of Michelin Guide Seoul still in doubt


Michelin sponsorship: Hong Kong Tourism Board denies paying to use its name at dining festival, but admits deal with related company


Michelin confirms Hong Kong & Macau guide is sponsored, but by companies, not the cities’ tourism boards


Thailand’s new Michelin guide: gold standard of restaurant reviews or overhyped and out-of-date?


Michelin Guide Accused of Selling Out to South Korean Government

Michelin Guide Accused of Selling Out to South Korean Government

Korean Food Dominates Slapdash Michelin Guide


Michelin Guide Seoul creates divisive culinary star war







Our Rationale.

There is likely no other expression more used to describe a dining establishment than “Michelin-starred restaurant”. Like so much in the universe of chefs and dining rooms, the term is as a buzz word–a phrase that tries to say everything and ends up saying nothing. For 86 years the Guide Michelin has been assigning stars and other symbols to restaurants in France. The company Michelin Travel Partner now publishes 32 European, American and Asian guides with more on the way. It’s why Michelin has become the chief arbiter of restaurant quality and is taken as gospel primarily by all except the experienced diner. The most-important question one must ask is do the Michelin non-verbal designations or ratings measure what they purport to measure and, whether or not you agree with them, are they derived honestly and carry meaningful reliability. Other questions worth asking are does Michelin Travel Partner have the resources and the integrity to meet its stated goals and does it truly have the welfare of its readers and the chef profession at-large at heart.

In the days ahead, we will be writing about the little-known facts of Michelin’s history, recent developments, “breaking” news. and what others are writing in terms of opinion and analysis. We hope you will log in regularly. We plan to be interesting and at times provocative.

The 2019 French Michelin Losers’ Tour

Many ardent food travelers will soon be heading to Annecy (Clos des Sens) and Menthon (Mirazur) to keep up-to-date their “I have eaten in every three-star restaurant in France” status. I bet no one has ever planned a trip to all of the restaurants that have just lost their third star. However, this year presents a particularly worthwhile opportunity for doing just that. Such a tour would not only be very scenic and historic, but likely no less delicious than any other gastronomic ones you might think of. Start in Paris where L’Astrance was always significantly less expensive than any other three-star restaurant in Paris, besides which its chef Pascal Barbot is highly-respected. High up in the Alps, Marc Veyrat’s restaurant La Maison des Bois provides a retrospective of renown dishes of one of the most-esteemed chefs of his generation. Moving on to Alsace, Marc Haeberlin of the fabled and picturesque Auberge de L’Ill  took the hit of losing for the first time the third star his father earned in 1967. Do you really think the restaurant wouldn’t be as good this year than it was last year? Onward to the heart of the Auvergne where two years ago, Michel Bras’ son Sebastian asked that his three-star restaurant Le Souquet  be permanently taken out of the Guide Michelin, a request it honored for one year. In mean-spirited fashion, the editors put his restaurant Le Souquet back in minus a star. The chief victim, however, is Alain Dutournier, a chef’s chef who never seems to get his due. His Place Vendôme restaurant Les Carré des Feuillants lost its second star and his Au Trou Gascon in the 12th Arrondissement  lost its only star, all on the same day. Note that the average age of these chefs is 59. Thanks, Michelin for your lack of rigor, along with your increasing commercialism that taints your judgement, as well as your growing lack of respect for much of what gave French cuisine a UNESCO World Intangible Heritage designation.