The Michelin Guide, Michelin Stars & Michelin Chefs

The Michelin Inspector is the joy and sorrow all restaurateurs, because Michelin gives and Michelin takes away. At times their verdicts strike ordinary, non-Michelin mortals as unjust and wrong, but like a zealous young traffic cop they have come to their conclusion and are impervious to whining, charm or persuasion.

Michelin Guide

The result is this: almost without exception, foody journalists can eat for free and few of them fail to take advantage of this. On the surface this sounds rotten but there is an implicit trade off, because everyone knows that a half decent article cab fill a restaurant with customers overnight.
In short Michelin has it made. Since they never get their hands dirty that govern every one else, theirs is the only guide to be trusted.

No matter about their prestige or celebrity status, once a year these chefs shrink to the size of frightened school children when they gather outside No. 46 avenue de Breteuil. Rare is the chef who refuses to join the procession, because the single most dreadful event that can befall his business is the loss of a star or stars. Not even Paul Bocuse, the Emperor himself, steps out of line when standing in front of the Michelin office.

Michelin has always and still dictates that its only about the food that is served on the plate and not the rest of the establishment. For all the trust that the Michelin guide holds we all know this is rubbish. A revealing passage in Pascal Remys book (retired inspector) tells all.

�When we test a restaurant we take into account the environment, the quality of the welcome on arrival and departure, the surroundings, the general set-up, the service and the atmosphere. All of these does not improve the taste of the dishes, but it puts us in a good frame of mind�.

So if you put any three star Michelins food onto a plate in your local diner, he will loose all of those precious stars. Why cant Michelin admit what we all know!

Almost every three star Michelin chef will admit they have broken the bank for the decor, rather where it matters most, the kitchen.

Michelin chefs


Extracts from The Perfectionist, Rudolph Chelminski

It’s too bad,” said my fellow diner thoughtfully as he sipped on a spoonful of liquid ham. “I really feel sorry for all those other chefs.”

The comment was made at El Bulli, Ferran Adria’s restaurant, as we waded through a 40-course meal. My friend is a connoisseur. He represented Oxford against Cambridge 30 years ago at the annual blind wine tasting competition; he has a personal collection of thousands of top-quality wines; he is a wonderful cook; and he has dined at more than 20 restaurants with Michelin stars, most of them in France. But none of them are like this one, which even the French consider to be the best in the world.

el bulli Ferran Adria

“In 500 years of cuisine, nobody had thought of anything like this,” added my friend as he picked on a sheet of paper with inlaid wild flowers. “My guess is they’re never going to reach his level.”

I would be hard pressed to tell a Burgundy apart from a Bordeaux, and I am able to speak of gastronomic issues with the same authority I could talk about life on Mars. But after a three-week trip, during which I ate at the six best restaurants in Spain – or at least, those that the Michelin Guide awarded three stars to – I had reached three conclusions.

First of all, I think my friend is wrong to feel sorry for the other chefs. The other five I met, at least, are among the luckiest people in the world: they have talent, they love their job and they make a very good living. Second, contemporary Spanish cuisine symbolises the country’s great qualitative leap forward: in little more than one generation, it has moved from rural scarcity to technological wealth. Third, my friend is

Spain’s most venerable chef, the first one to earn three Michelin stars, Juan Mari Arzak, agrees. Although he has been described as a competitive man, he showed no hint of jealousy when he said: “Ferran is the most imaginative chef in history, the most imaginative one that will ever walk the earth.”

Juan Mari Arzak


Some people will question whether El Bulli really is the best restaurant in the world, but certainly nobody will doubt that it is the most inaccessible one. It is located two and a half hours north of Barcelona, and the last 20 minutes take one along a tortuous mountain road that seems friendlier to sheep than to cars.

Once there, it was surprising to see half a dozen cars (including a Porsche, a Mercedes, and a Jaguar) parked in front. In some cases, the drivers have waited up to two years to be allowed to dine here. Are they not planning on drinking alcohol, then? You cannot drink and expect to make your way back over that road in one piece. And yet it would be a crime not to drink, or at least that is what my expert friend said, as he pored over the wine list, a 147-page volume with 1,618 wines from 15 countries, including Canada.

“But, but…” he mumbled as he examined the document as a bishop would examine the Gospel according to Saint Luke (in its original Aramaic). “Some of these wines are below market prices! French wines are half the price they are at French restaurants of an equivalent category…”

“Yes,” explained the sommelier. “Our philosophy is that everyone should be able to enjoy these wines.”

The balance of our brains as we climbed up the road to the restaurant made us enter a slightly hypnotic state. This feeling only increased when we met the waiters, who made us feel as if we had entered a magic castle suspended in time and space. They wore grey and black (making them look somewhat like Dr No on his island), and showed neither an intimidating stiffness nor an irritating familiarity. They had, in fact, achieved a collective tone of perfection. They were even able to inform the client about the result of the latest Bar�a soccer match. But they imparted this information the same way that they presented their avant-garde dishes: with no passion, as if they themselves were deconstructed the same way that the food is, and had been transformed into perfect androids.

But perhaps this was an optical illusion due to the gin fizz we were offered as soon as we sat down on the outdoor terrace, overlooking the bay. The concoction was served inside an egg carton and consumed with a spoon.

El Bulli offers both performance and visual art – each dish is a painting – as well as experimental science and Germanic rigour. For the diner, this offers infinitely pretentious possibilities for mental gymnastics. What is served is not food in any regular, recognizable sense of the term. It is a sequence of experiences through taste, eyesight, hearing and touch. Almost all the dishes are swallowed in a single gulp (40 dishes, 40 gulps) for fear of getting food on their clothes. The “spherified olives” are particularly dangerous. If one were to nibble on them as they would a normal olive, their suit would be spoiled. They are as soft and delicate as a peeled quail’s egg, and they consist of a fine green ball-shaped membrane filled with a concentrated essence of liquefied olive.

Michelin Chefs


The liquid ham is so transparent that it looks like water; yet it is as tasty as the original. One’s jaws have little work to do with this dish, as with most of the others, including the tiger-nut flowers, the oyster yogurt and the frozen air of parmesan cheese with muesli. Adrias food is a combination of space meals and Dr Seuss.

Despite this sophistication, the first impression one gets when Adri� opens his mouth is that the man has trouble speaking, and furthermore he doesn’t know what to say – his words and his grammar sound confused. But then one realises that his ideas flow so rapidly that his tongue and throat cannot process them fast enough. The main thing to notice about this down-to-earth Catalan is his eyes: they are eyes that take in everything, for him to later transform the information into one of the dishes that he experiments with at his Barcelona laboratory during the winter months.

“This is not eating,” he says. “This is eating art. It is an orchestra and a ballet. It is magic, presented with feeling and with pragmatism.”

If Adria has been compared to Dal inside a kitchen, then Pedro Subijana is much more akin to a 19th-century French chef, like the ones we see in the movies. But the moustachioed Basque is also a contemporary man who knows his business. Besides his restaurant, Akelarre, he owns a publishing house and gives talks around the world. He is now building a five-star hotel next to his restaurant, which promises to be as spectacular as the food he serves.

His dishes show the Adria influence but also deep traditional Basque roots. This means that his food is playful but that it also requires, on occasion, the use of a knife and fork. The first course came inside what looked like a chocolate box, containing an oyster inside a false, edible shell, pearl-shaped foie and basil shaped like green candy. But the fish he served actually looked like a recognisable fish, and the meat also had the appearance of meat, even though it was wrapped in what looked like a copper sheet – which turned out to be potato.

Subijana says he has always had a dreamy nature, as demonstrated by his huge moustache. “But I hate the attitude of people who work without caring about what they do. If you are not patient and conscientious, talent and imagination are worthless,” he says.

He was the last of the six Spanish chefs to obtain the coveted third Michelin star. He says that when they heard the news a year ago, both he and half the staff burst into tears. But how do they stand the pressure, the frantic pace inside the kitchen and the dining room, and the need to keep every utensil spotlessly clean, every day, every hour?

“That kind of stress is necessary!” he exclaims. “That way you avoid falling into a routine, which is the worst thing that could happen.”

At nearly 60 years of age, that appetite for stress is pushing him to open a hotel. “My family asks why I get myself into these messes, but I say that when I die I’ll be dead, so in the meantime I welcome a mess!”

Perhaps the most different of the six three-star restaurants is Raco de Can Fabes, in Sant Celoni, and run by Santi Santamaria, who owns another restaurant in Madrid with two Michelin stars and another one in Barcelona with one. For one thing, he serves more food on each plate than any of the other five chefs. That might have something to do with his size: he is by far the biggest of them all, and closest to the stereotypical image of a fat, epicurean cook.

Raco de Can Fabes



The other difference is that at Rac, what you see is what you get. If the menu says ham and melon, then you are served ham and melon. If you order squid, what appears on the plate is clearly a marine creature with tentacles, as if it had just been picked out of the sea – and rather than being rubbery, it is exquisitely tender.

“Good food was made for shitting it out,” was Santamaris controversial war cry at a recent food symposium in Madrid. He was being deliberately provocative, making fun of what he sees as the unnatural, technological excesses of what has been termed as the Spanish cuisine revolution. Santamaria stands at the opposite end of the spectrum as Adria. He is more in tune with the French tradition (all seven kinds of bread he offers are homemade) and he is proud to make truly Catalan dishes with the best local produce. Adri� looks down on bread and only serves it when a client asks for it, and finds inspiration in cuisine from all over the world. The big difference between both menus is that Adrias food is urinated out, while Santamara’s is defecated.

Santamaris restaurant is located in a tiny village, as is Martn Berasategui’s. This Basque chef chose Lasarte as his headquarters for the simple reason that his wife, Oneka, is from there.

“I am extremely hardworking,” he confides, to explain how he manages the pressure of running one of Spain’s only three-star restaurants. “I go to bed at 1am and get up at 6.30am. I stay in the kitchen all day, except for a pause between 5 and 7pm. And this is no stress at all. The main thing is that I have a great team, and a perfect family. I concentrate on the food, and that is not hard at all.”

His background is traditional – he learned from his father, a butcher, and his aunt, who ran a restaurant in San Sebastian called Bodegon Alejandro. “There are no limits to my creativity, but my roots are Basque,” he adds. “If a Japanese person comes here, I want him or her to feel what Basque food is, just as I would want to feel what Japanese food is like when I go to Japan.”


Bodegon Alejandro

Yet Berasategui, 47, is closer to Adria than to Santamara. His 15-dish menu is rife with aromas, foams and infusions, while there are few items there to be “defecated.” His small seafood and meat dishes look like what they are supposed to be, but they give the impression of having been deprived of all fat and cholesterol.

“I like to cook like this,” he says. “I don’t want someone to come to my restaurant and enjoy himself for two hours, then suffer for the next 14.”

Not too far from there, in San Sebasti�n, sits Arzak, the first restaurant to obtain three Michelin stars in Spain. When you walk through the door, you feel like you’re walking into a family home, not a fancy food hall. And that is in fact what it is: Juan Mari Arzak was born here, just like his parents. His daughter Elena is his right hand in the kitchen and will inherit the business when he retires. Everyone here acts as if they were cousins, siblings, aunts – very unlike the atmosphere at El Bulli.

The food is delicious, a combination of old and new complemented by a wine list with 2,600 entries that would make any great French restaurant jealous. His laboratory also features a big machine called a lyophiliser that can turn a piece of hake into dust. A young technician explains that this machine can freeze dry anything, removing the water but preserving the minerals and nutrients. For the last four years, it has been an essential part of Arzak’s kitchen.

A German woman named Ulla is eating alone at a nearby table at Arzak’s. She leans over and says: “This is the best food I have ever had! The attention to detail, the presentation, the atmosphere, the service, which is not pretentious nor phony! And the military discipline that you know is behind it all… But above all, the food! It’s so good I feel like crying!”

Only one woman chef holds three Michelin stars, and that is Carme Ruscalleda, who presides over Sant Pau, a restaurant in Sant Pol de Mar, near Barcelona. Each one of her dishes is a small work of art, and attacking her plates with a fork or a spoon would be something akin to vandalism, almost psychopathic – like taking a knife to a Monet watercolor. Touching, much less eating, dishes such as her prawn salad should be forbidden. The “salad” comes in a small transparent box made of hardened gelatine the size of a golf ball. Inside, in a condensed form, are all the flavours of the sea and the land: shrimp, olives, basil and vinegar.

The surroundings are very important here. The dining room is right above the kitchen, and has views on a Mediterranean landscape with the sea at the far end. Ruscalleda describes her own food as “art made to be devoured.”

“This food should make people feel voracious,” she says. “It would be a pity if people left and said ‘It was just food’.”


Michelin Re Ranks Chefs

Like it or not, Michelin is the only restaurant-rating authority with some claim to ranking the top establishments in the worlds top cities on a seemingly comparable basis.

We are indebted to our friends at Bloomberg for running the numbers and pointing out that Michelin guides recently published (including to Las Vegas and Tokyo) have rewritten the world pecking-order in the last few weeks. The total numbers of stars awarded to the empires of the biggest-name chefs now stand as follows:

1. Joel Robuchon (F) – 17
2. Alain Ducasse (F) – 15
3. Gordon Ramsay (UK) – 11
4. Thomas Keller (US) – 7

Tokyo, incidentally, is now by far the worlds most Michelin-starred city, reports Its 191 stars represent a tally nearly twice that of Paris (97) and more than three times that of London (49).


Second top Italian chef spurns Michelin stars

One of Italy’s greatest chefs has caused controversy in the culinary world by becoming the second of the nation’s top cooks to give back his Michelin stars.

Ezio Santin, head chef at the award-winning Antica Osteria del Ponte outside Milan, said he no longer needed to rely on the famous stars in order to be successful.

“We get customers from all over the world and thanks to the internet we can continue to attract people,” Santin told Reuters. Santin’s announcement follows decision by fellow chef Gualtiero Marchesi to spurn the Michelin award last year.

Marchesi, the first to win three stars in Italy with his exclusive restaurant in the hills of Lombardy, complained that the guide favored French restaurants over Italian ones and publicly withdrew from participation.

chef Gualtiero Marchesi


Suggestions that the famous stars are losing their credibility were denied by Michelin, whose representative in Milan hit back at the “elderly” chefs who questioned the guide.

“They were excellent chefs but in Marchesi’s restaurants in particular, the food is not what it once was,” said Fausto Arrighi, director of the Michelin Red guide in Milan.

“They are elderly men by now and it is right that they should be thinking about retirement,” he told Reuters.

Santin, who is 72, runs the restaurant with the help of his wife, Renata, who was quick to give a fiery response to implications that their days were numbered.

“When Ezio and I decide we want to close our restaurant, we will do so, but it will be our decision,” she said by telephone from the Antica Osteria.

Husband and wife no longer want to slave away to meet the guide’s secretive and very demanding requirements.

“After 33 years in the business, we’re tired of having to please inspectors,” Santin said.

The couple see the break from Michelin as an act of liberation and an opportunity for change.

“We want the freedom to cook what we like,” Santin said. “After so many years, we want to get up in the morning and come up with new and exciting menus of the day.”

“I am sure that we will continue to be challenged in new ways and be even better than before,” she said.

Six Italian restaurants have been awarded three stars in this year’s Michelin guide, compared to 11 in Tokyo, which sees the Japanese capital beat Paris as the city with the most three-star eateries


Tokyo Michelin Guide

France’s esteemed Michelin guide next week launches its first edition outside the Western world in Tokyo, where the project has stirred intense interest but also concerns about Eurocentrism.

The Michelin reviewers, who can make or break chefs in Europe, have an intimidating task in Tokyo, which has at least 160,000 restaurants, more than any other city in the world.

The Tokyo version of the famous red book will be unveiled Monday and published in both Japanese and English. Sixty-five percent of the restaurants covered serve Japanese cuisine, with most of the rest French, said Jean-Luc Naret, the global director of Michelin guides.

Tokyo Michelin Guide Chefs


“The number that will be awarded stars will remain a surprise,” he told AFP.

He pledged that the selection of restaurants “will truly pay tribute to Tokyo and to the different currents of Japanese cuisine,” he said.

He said the guide would cover restaurants serving kaiseki, Japan’s artistic haute cuisine in which small, simple portions of food are presented individually with utmost care.

Other restaurants include specialists in soba, buckwheat noodles which are one of Japan’s most popular dishes, and fugu, the storied fish which can only be prepared by licensed chefs because its entrails contain deadly poison.

While Japan has a major industry in food publishing, competitive ratings are a relatively new concept, with many local restaurant guides purely running paid advertisements.

The arrival of the prestigious foreign guide has elicited major interest in Japanese media Naret has given more than 300 interviews since March but also stirred passionate debate.

The restaurants are judged by a team of three French and two Japanese experts.

The principal fear is that a Western guide will not appreciate the subtleties of Japanese cuisine, where a meal is judged not only by what is on the plate but by the finesse with which it is presented.

In some restaurants, it is customary for a chef to write in calligraphy a poem about the customer who has reserved the table.

Yoshihiro Murata, owner and head chef of the famous Kikunoi restaurant in Kyoto, said he hoped the Michelin guide would teach foreigners about Japanese cuisine but also expressed concern.

“I feel somewhat ill at ease with the idea that European standards will be used to judge the depth of Japanese culinary art, such as the dishware, placement of calligraphy, flower arrangements and the ambience,” he told the Mainichi Shimbun.

But food critic Masuhiro Yamamoto was supportive of the Michelin project, which comes amid a global boom in the popularity of Japanese food.

“This is an opportunity for Japanese cuisine to break out of its current isolation and move into the rest of the world. Chefs should learn humbly from the attitude of Michelin, which values creativity,” Yamamoto said.

The debate has also raged on the Internet.

“These are French people who want to judge Japanese cuisine according to French standards,” said Akira Ito on his blog about food. “Japanese people who take part in this ought to be ashamed of themselves.”

The controversy mirrors the uproar during the release of Michelin’s first guide outside Europe in New York in 2005.

Much of New York media skewered the guide, saying it showed French conceit by focusing on French cuisine and ignoring the sweeping range of restaurants offered by the city’s ethnic communities.

But the New York Michelin guide has managed to sell 120,000 copies, enough to persuade the authors to expand in the United States. Michelin started a guide for San Francisco last year and also next week launches editions for Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

For Tokyo, guide director Naret denied any Eurocentrism. He said that eventually the entire review staff will be Japanese.

“Once you have the guide in your hands and see the quality of restaurants that we put first, I don’t think you’ll be able to say anymore that we don’t understand Japanese cuisine,” he said.


Michelin Hands 24 stars to Germany

The Michelin Guide to Germany added one new two-star restaurant and awarded a further 23 eateries a single star today. The number of three-star establishments stayed at nine, the second-highest in Europe behind France.

Martin Herrmannas Le Pavillon in Hotel Dollenberg in the Black Forest was awarded a second star. Of the 23 new one-star establishments, two are in Berlin, two in Stuttgart, one in Hamburg and one in Munich. Many newcomers are young chefs who are raising standards of German cuisine, according to Jean-Luc Naret, director of the Michelin Guides.

The German guide has 225 restaurants with stars, the most in the history of the guide, Naret said in an interview at the Hotel de Rome in Berlin. The quality of German cuisine is very strong, and its exquisite when it comes to the top.


German Michelin Guide

The Michelin Guide to Germany is celebrating its 100th birthday. The first guide was published in 1910, but there was a gap between 1915 and 1966. Naret said 73 hotels that were in the first guide are still listed in the 2010 edition, including the Hotel Adlon on Berlin’s Unter den Linden.

Berlin has now taken the lead as the German city with the highest number of stars, Naret said, overtaking Hamburg. Both have 11 one-star restaurants, and Berlin also has one two-star establishment, Fischers Fritz in the Regent Hotel.

Berlin is starting to be the food capital,” Naret said. Berlin and Hamburg are competing. It will be interesting to see which one is going to be the first to get a three-star restaurant.


Star Recaptured

In Berlin, Die Quadriga in the Brandenburg Hof hotel recaptured a star lost last year. Reinstoff, a new restaurant set up in an old fire station by a team of three who previously worked at chef Juan Amadorâs three-star restaurant near Frankfurt was awarded its first star. Hamburgs new one-star restaurant is Kuechenwerkstatt and Munichs is Schweiger2 im Show Room.

Under the Michelin ranking system, one star means a very good restaurant in its category, two means excellent and worth a detour and three stars means among the very best restaurants and worth a special journey.

Naret said that worldwide, managements at three-star restaurants report that business has declined between 10 percent and 15 percent in the economic crisis of the past year.

People are more selective when they go to restaurants, he said. They are not going out to eat as much as they used to in the past. They may not go out to the most expensive ones.

Michelin & Cie., the worlds biggest tiremaker, is based in Clermont Ferrand, France, and has been publishing dining guides for more than a century. The 1,440-page German guide for 2010 will go on sale from Nov. 13.


The restaurants awarded new stars are:

2 Michelin stars:

  • Le Pavillon, Peterstal-Griesbach

1 Michelin star:

  • Die Quadriga, Berlin
  • Reinstoff, Berlin
  • La Terrasse, Bremen
  • Esszimmer, Coburg
  • Wilder Ritter, Durbach
  • Nero, Restaurant Nesselrode, Essen
  • Kuechenwerkstatt, Hamburg
  • Villa Leonhart, Koenigswinter
  • Schloss Elmau, Luce d Oro, Elmau
  • Maus im Mollers, Mainz
  • Amesa, Mannheim
  • Schweiger2 im Showroom, Munich
  • Coquille St. Jacques, Neuwied
  • Meyers Keller, Noerdlingen
  • Villa Mittermeier, Rothenburg ob der Tauber
  • Nixe, Binz
  • Le Noir, Saarbruecken
  • Sendig, Bad Schandau
  • DiVa, Scharbeutz
  • Olivo, Stuttgart
  • Speisemeisterei, Stuttgart
  • Thun, Weiden
  • Alte Feuerwache, Wuersele


Michelin Builds a Campaign Around Its Secret Reviewers

HERES a piece of advance information from the Michelin guide for New York City 2010: 18 new stars will be awarded to restaurants. Michelin is rigorously tight-lipped about the information in its guides until they arrive in stores, and requires similar discretion from its reviewers, who are anonymous.

An ad campaign for the Michelin guides highlights its infamously anonymous reviewers.
But in this Facebook era, when privacy and anonymity seem like vestiges of a bygone time, Michelin is making itself a bit more accessible as it prepares for the New York guides fifth edition, scheduled to be in stores on Oct. 6, and San Franciscos fourth edition, scheduled for Oct. 20.

It is running an ad campaign for the guides highlighting its famously anonymous professional reviewers. Michelin protects the identities of its reviewers to the point that they generally are not allowed to do interviews with the press, and must invent cover stories about their profession so that even friends and family dont know what they do.

Despite those precautions, with this campaign, Michelin is peeling back the mask of its reviewers. They will post items on Twitter at @MichelinGuideNY and @MichelinGuideSF, including items about places they are dining, advance critiques of chefs and complaints about service.

michelin guide new york

One of the things we realized when we started to question people in New York, they realized what Michelin was about, but they didnt realize that this was about a team of professionals, said Jean-Luc Naret, director of the Michelin guides. Were trying, really, to make sure that people understand they are on the road, they are out there and maybe they could spot them.

The Michelin guide was first published in France in 1900 as a free directory that offered listings of hotels to promote road travel, which would in turn help sales of Michelin brand tires.

It was distributed at garages and tire dealerships until 1920, when, according to company lore, a co-founder of the guide, Andre Michelin, noticed stacks of the guides piled up under a garage workbench, and decided that people respected only what they paid for. He began charging for the guide and added restaurant coverage around the same time. By 1931, Michelin was using the three-star system for its restaurants that it still uses today.

Michelin entered the United States with the 2006 New York edition. But New York already had its own restaurant guide. The Zagat Survey was founded in New York City 30 years ago, and surveys regular customers to compile its ratings and reviews.

That is one reason Michelin is emphasizing its professional restaurant and hotel inspectors this year, to differentiate itself from Zagat. Ryan Lynch, senior brand strategist at the advertising agency Cliff Freeman & Partners, which worked on the campaign, said he was also fascinated with the secret life of inspectors.

For instance, inspectors book reservations under fake names, Mr. Naret said. They surreptitiously scribble notes while they are in the bathroom or type them on their BlackBerrys. And they take pains to blend in, even recruiting people to pose as paramours when reviewing certain romantic restaurants.

They are not going to go by themselves to a restaurant where everyone looks like a couple,” Mr. Naret said. “They have to be a chameleon.

That got Mr. Lynch thinking that Twitter clues about where the reviewers were eating would intrigue food enthusiasts.

Theres kind of a ˜Da Vinci Code, a little James Bond feel, to who they are and how they go about working and your imagination tends to run wild with it, Mr. Lynch said. Knowing something about inspectors ” from what standards Michelin sets for them to more specific details like where they have been eating  could be a nice piece of trivia for diners, he said.

The Twitter posts from the reviewers so far are along the lines of, Lunch at Jaiya, renovations still under way but looking good. Yummy spring roll. But Michelin does not want the Twitter element to be too successful. Crowds are notoriously good at solving online puzzles: people who commented at the site tracked down the makers of a Dominos Pizza gross-out video earlier this year, and brands like McDonalds and Wired magazine have set up online mysteries that crowds solve together. If readers figured out who an inspector was, the inspector would be out of a job.

Michelin is taking the precaution of having inspectors send Twitter updates to an editor who posts them, but Mr. Lynch said there were still some worries.

With technology being what it is, and the advancements in being able to locate people, we open ourselves up for a potential chance of that anonymity being broken, and at the end of the day that cant happen  its got to be a very slow and steady process to find how much these people give away, he said.

The print ads accompanying the Michelin guide are running in the October editions in San Francisco and New York-area issues of magazines like Bon Appatit, Time Out New York and Architectural Digest. The ads show a handful of urbane young people in a restaurant, watching and being watched, and asks, Whos the famously anonymous inspector? Below, smaller print gives the answer: Youll never know, because Michelin inspectors visit restaurants without revealing their identity.

Michelin is also running the Web site, which includes information about the jobs of reviewers.

This whole idea of anonymity is the end-all, be-all for what this guide is, Mr. Lynch said. To finally start to open up these inspectors to the world is going to be a minute-by-minute learning experience.


Top chefs take note: Michelin says cuts needed

The coveted Michelin stars can make or break a restaurant. But so can an economic crisis.

“It’s not caviar every day,” the Michelin guide’s director said Monday as he urged France’s great chefs to invent new ways of keeping customers.

Some of the world’s best restaurants are losing business, particularly from corporate clients, and are having to offer cheaper menus, even at the top end, Jean-Luc Naret told The Associated Press.

The Michelin guide celebrated its 100th French edition Monday.

Naret said some restaurants will be forced to explore “new concepts,” pointing to New York’s upscale Jean Georges restaurant, which is offering 3-star lunchtime cuisine for $28.

“Those who are too expensive will be forced to reinvent themselves,” he said.

However, crisis wasn’t on the menu Monday for Le Bristol, where Michelin elevated chef Eric Frechon’s restaurant to 3-star status the only one to receive such an upgrade in this year’s guide.

Frechon said his new status should help fill empty dining tables.

“In the past, we used to turn people away. Today we aren’t doing that anymore and we’re one or two tables short,” he told The Associated Press from the kitchen where he spends most of his life, often from 7 a.m. to midnight.

“The third star is welcome because the seats we were missing will be filled tomorrow.”

Le Bristol, which opened in 1925, lies just down the street from President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Parisian palace.

Frechon, whom Sarkozy decorated with the French Legion of Honor last year, says the president sometimes dines there a couple of times a week, and his favorite dish is the euro80 ($101.15) starter of stuffed macaroni with black truffle, artichoke and duck foie gras.

A native of Normandy, in western France, Frechon describes his menu as traditional French cooking with a modern touch.

To celebrate, Michelin invited Frechon and about 400 guests, including other starred Michelin chefs, VIPs and artists, to the Musee d’Orsay on Monday evening for an exhibition of 100 alternative guide covers.

Naret, the Michelin director, insisted the three-star rating was not influenced by Sarkozy’s culinary preferences.

“It’s not because it’s a restaurant that (Sarkozy) likes that it was chosen,” he said at a news conference in Paris.

Every year, the French culinary world trembles as the industry’s biggest names wait to see who will be the winners — and who will fall off their pedestal.

The reputation of the culinary bible, which started as an aid for French motorists, has taken a hit in recent years.

A former inspector caused a stir in 2004 by accusing the guide of letting standards slip and allowing some chefs undeservedly to keep stars because of their prestige. Several chefs have opted out of the system, complaining that it costs too much to maintain their Michelin stars.

And now, there’s the economic crisis.

“It’s not a question of being expensive or not,” Naret said, defending the guide’s choice of restaurants. “There are starred restaurants with prices for euro20, euro25 who know how to do quality cooking that is not so expensive.”

As well as the 548 starred restaurants, Michelin’s 2009 French edition also awards 527 restaurants with what it calls a “Bib Gourmand,” a sign of good value for money with meals costing no more than euro35 ($44.25).

Nine new two-star restaurants — including British chef Gordon Ramsay’s new restaurant at the Trianon Palace Hotel, Versailles, and a record 63 new one-star restaurants — also were announced in the latest version.

The ratings are determined by inspectors who taste food, visit kitchens and check plates, cutlery, glasses and even bathrooms.

The Michelin guide is published by the French tire company and is considered an authority on French gastronomy. The guide’s first edition was released in 1900, but it didn’t come out during the two World Wars or in 1921. It now publishes guides covering 23 countries.


Michelin star French chefs quit over pressure of Red Guide

Marc Veyrat, 58, has announced he will cease personally running his celebrated Auberge de l’Eridan near Annecy in the Alps for “health reasons” and that the restaurant’s scheduled reopening on May 1 was “on standby”.

“Physically, I had reached the limit of what I could do,” he said by way of explanation.

His decision to distance himself from his famous restaurant in Veyrier-du-Lac was announced too late for Michelin to make changes to the 2009 edition of its Red Guide, in which the cook retained his three stars.

Mr Veyrat is the second chef in three months to give up running a top restaurant. In November, Olivier Roellinger, 53, turned in his three Michelin stars and closed his Maisons de Bricourt in the small Brittany port of Cancale, saying that: “Physically, I can no longer continue cooking. My legs no longer hold me.” Both men cited physical disabilities but the infernal pressure to hold on to the top gastronomic accolade was said to be a key factor behind their move.

Five three-Michelin star chefs in France have renounced their stars in recent years. Joel Robuchon handed in his in 1996, Alain Senderens did the same in 2005 and the Alsatian chef Antoine Westermann followed suit in 2006.

In 2003 top chef Bernard Loiseau committed suicide after it was rumoured he was to lose one of his three stars.

François Simon, Le Figaro’s food critic, said :”The pressure is so great. It’s as if every day you had to do a London to Los Angeles flight as a pilot. It’s a huge stress,” he said.

“You always have to be impeccable. Like footballers, there comes a point when you don’t have the energy, the happiness the excitement,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

Both men intend to stay in the kitchen but to produce simpler fare. Mr Roellinger now runs a less sophisticated restaurant called Coquillage in Cancale.

Libération described their decisions as “the turning of a page in the history of gastronomy”. The Michelin guide has come under fire in recent years with detractors claiming it favours fare from stuffy, overpriced restaurants over simpler bistros with warmer atmospheres but equally good cuisine.

However Michelin remains the undisputed best-seller among France’s restaurant guides, selling ten times more than its closest rival, GaultMillau



  • 1 Lombard Street, City of London
  • Amaya, Belgravia
  • Angela Hartnett at The Connaught, Mayfair
  • Arbutus, Soho
  • Assagi, Notting Hill
  • L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Strand/Covent Garden
  • Aubergine, Chelsea
  • Benares, Mayfair
  • Chez Bruce, Wandsworth
  • Club Gascon, West Smithfield
  • Les Escargot, Soho
  • Foliage, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park hotel, Knightsbridge
  • The Glasshouse, Kew Village
  • Gordon Ramsay at Claridges, Mayfair
  • The Greenhouse, Mayfair
  • Hakkasan, Bloomsbury
  • The Ledbury, Notting Hill
  • Locanda Locatelli, Marylebone
  • Maze, London Marriott Hotel Grosvenor Square, Mayfair
  • Mirabelle, Curzon Street, Mayfair
  • Nahm, Halkin hotel, Chelsea
  • Nobu, Metropolitan hotel, Mayfair
  • Nobu Berkeley, Mayfair
  • La Noisette, Chelsea
  • Orrery, Marylebone
  • Rasoi Vineet Bhatia, Chelsea
  • Rhodes Twenty Four, Tower 42, City of London
  • Richard Corrigan at Lindsay House, Soho
  • River Cafe, Hammersmith
  • Roussillon, Pimlico
  • The Savoy Grill, Savoy hotel, The Strand
  • Sketch (The Lecture Room), Mayfair
  • Tamarind, Mayfair
  • Tom Aikens, Chelsea
  • Umu, Mayfair
  • Yauatcha, Soho
  • Zafferano, Knightsbridge


  • 5 North Street, Winchcombe, Gloucestershire
  • 36 on the Quay, Emsworth, Hampshire
  • The Abbey, Penzance, Cornwall
  • Arkle, Chester Grosvenor hotel, Chester, Cheshire
  • Bath Priory Hotel and Restaurant, Bath, Somerset
  • Bohemia, St Helier, Jersey
  • Box Tree, Ilkley, West Yorkshire
  • Burlington Restaurant, Devonshire Arms, Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire
  • The Castle hotel, Taunton, Somerset
  • Christophe, Fermain Valley hotel, Fermain Bay, Guernsey
  • Drakes, Ripley, Surrey
  • Drakes on the Pond, Abinger Hammer, Surrey
  • The Elephant, Torquay, Devon
  • LeEnclume, Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria
  • Fischers, Baslow Hall, Derbyshire
  • The George, Yarmouth, Isle of Wight
  • Gilpin Lodge, Windermere, Cumbria
  • Gravetye Manor, East Grinstead, Surrey
  • The Greyhound, Stockbridge, Hampshire
  • Hambleton Hall, Oakham, Rutland
  • The Hand and Flowers, Marlow, Buckinghamshire
  • The Hare, Hungerford, Berkshire
  • The Harrow at Little Bedwyn, Marlborough, Wiltshire
  • Harrys Place, Grantham, Lincolnshire
  • Holbeck Ghyll country house hotel, Windermere, Cumbria
  • Jessicas, Birmingham
  • JSW, Petersfield, Hampshire
  • Juniper, Altrincham, Greater Manchester
  • Lucknam Park country house hotel, Colerne, near Bath, Wiltshire
  • Mallory Court country house hotel, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
  • The Masons Arms, South Molton, Devon
  • Morston Hall, Blakeney, Norfolk
  • Mr Underhills at Dinham Weir, Ludlow, Shropshire
  • The New Angel, Dartmouth, Devon
  • Northcote Manor, Blackburn, Lancashire
  • Ocean at the Atlantic hotel, La Pulente, St Brelade, Jersey
  • Ockenden Manor, Cuckfield, West Sussex
  • Old Vicarage, Ridgeway, near Sheffield, South Yorkshire
  • The Olive Branch, Clipsham, Rutland
  • L Ortolan, Shinfield, near Reading, Berkshire
  • Le Poissin at Whitley Ridge, Brockenhurst, Hampshire
  • Reads, Faversham, Kent
  • Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottingham
  • Ripleys, Padstow, Cornwall
  • Seaham Hall, Seaham, Durham
  • Sharrow Bay Country House hotel, Ullswater, Cumbria
  • Simpsons, Birmingham
  • Stagg Inn, Kington, Herefordshire
  • The Star Inn, Harome, Helmsley, North Yorkshire
  • The Trouble House Inn, Tetbury, Gloucestershire
  • Waldos, Cliveden, Taplow, Berkshire
  • The West House, Biddenden, Kent
  • Whatley Manor, Malmesbury, Wiltshire
  • Winteringham Fields, Winteringham, North Lincolnshire
  • Yorke Arms, Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire



  • The Capital hotel, Knightsbridge
  • Le Gavroche, Mayfair
  • Petrus, Berkeley hotel, Knightsbridge
  • Pied d Terre, Bloomsbury
  • The Square, Mayfair





  • Le Champignon Sauvage, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
  • Gidleigh Park, Chagford, Devon
  • Hibiscus, Ludlow, Shropshire
  • Le Manoir Aux Quat�Saisons, Great Milton, Oxfordshire
  • Midsummer House, Cambridge
  • The Vineyard at Stockcross, Newbury, Berkshire





  • Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles, Auchterarder, Perthshire




  • Patrick Guilbaud, Dublin


  • Drakes on the Pond, Abinger Hammer, Surrey
  • Michael Wignall at The Latymer, Bagshot, Surrey
  • Fischers at Baslow Hall, Baslow, Derbyshire
  • Bath Priory, Bath, Somerset
  • The Park (at Lucknam Park), Bath/Colerne, Somerset
  • The Terrace (at Montagu Arms), Beaulieu, Hampshire
  • The West House, Biddenden, Kent
  • Fraiche, Birkenhead, Mersey
  • Simpsons, Birmingham
  • Purnells, Birmingham
  • Turners, Birmingham
  • Northcote, Lancashire
  • Morston Hall, Norfolk
  • The Burlington (at The DevonshireArms Country House), Bolton Abbey, North Yorkshire
  • Lords of the Manor, Bourton-on-the-Water/Upper Slaughter, Gloucestershire
  • Casamia, Bristol
  • Le Poussin at Whitley Ridge, Brockenhurst, Hampshire


  • Christophe, Guernsey, Channel Islands
  • Atlantic, Guernsey, Channel Islands
  • Bohemia, Guernsey, Channel Islands
  • Manor House hoteland Golf Club, Castle Combe, Wiltshire


  • Simon Radley at The Chester Grosvenor, Chester, Cheshire
  • West Stoke House, Chichester, West Sussex
  • Apicius, Cranbook, Kent
  • Ockenden Manor, Cuckfield, West Sussex
  • The New Angel, Dartmouth, Devon
  • 36 on the Quay, Emsworth, Hampshire
  • Reads, Faversham, Kent
  • Nathan Outlaw, (Rising Two Star), Fowey, Cornwall
  • L Enclume, Cartmel, Cumbria
  • Harrys Place, Grantham, Lincolnshire
  • The Star Inn, Harome, North Yorkshire
  • The Neptune, Hunstanton, Norfolk
  • Box Tree, Ilkley, West Yorkshire
  • The Stagg Inn, Kington/Titley, Hereford
  • La Bcasse, Ludlow, Shropshire
  • Mr Underhills at Dinham Weir, Ludlow, Shropshire
  • The Harrow at Little Bedwyn, Marlborough, Wiltshire
  • The Hand & Flowers, Marlow, Buckinghamshire
  • The Nut Tree, Murcott, Oxon
  • Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottingham
  • Hambleton Hall, Hambleton, Rutland
  • The Yorke Arms, Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire
  • JSW, Petersfield, Hampshire
  • L Ortolan, Reading, Berkshire
  • Drakes, Ripley, Surrey
  • The Dining Room ( at Mallory Court), Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
  • Seaham Hall, Seaham, Durham
  • Old Vicarage, Sheffield, South Yorkshire
  • The Masons Arms, Knowstone, Devon
  • The Olive Branch and Beech House, Clipsham, Lincolnshire
  • The Elephant , Torquay, Devon
  • Sharrow Bay Country House, Ullswater, Cumbria
  • Auberge du Lac, Welwyn Garden City, Herts
  • The Sportsman, Seasalter, Kent
  • The Hambrough, Isle of Wight
  • 5 North St, Winchcombe, Gloucestershire
  • Holbeck Ghyll, Windermere, Cumbria


  • The Capital hotel, Knightsbridge
  • Le Gavroche, Mayfair
  • Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley, Berkeley hotel, Knightsbridge
  • Pied d Terre, Bloomsbury
  • The Square, Mayfair
  • Alain Ducasse at The Dorcester, Mayfair
  • Hibiscus, Mayfair
  • L Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Covent Garden



  • The Dining Room Whatley Manor, Malmesbury, Wiltshire
  • Le Champignon Sauvage, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
  • Gidleigh Park, Chagford, Devon
  • Le Manoir Aux Quat�Saisons, Great Milton, Oxfordshire
  • Midsummer House, Cambridge
  • The Vineyard at Stockcross, Newbury, Berkshire




  • Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles, Auchterarder, Perthshire




  • Patrick Guilbaud, Dublin




  • The Fat Duck, Bray, Berkshire
  • Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Royal Hospital Road, London
  • The Waterside Inn, Bray, Berkshire


2009 Rising stars : Two-Michelin-star

  • The Ledbury, North Kensington
  • Nathan Outlaw, Fowey, Cornwall
  • Tom Aikens, Chelsea, London


Michelin Chef Walks Out

The head chef of a Michelin starred British restaurant has walked out after the owner demanded he change his menu from haute cuisine to burger and chips.

Ryan Simpson told Tuesday how he was delighted when The Goose in rural Oxfordshire was awarded one of the coveted stars on January 15, marking it as one of the top restaurants in the country.

But less than a month later the 27-year-old hung up his apron and took four other staff members with him after the owner asked them to move from serving scallops with veal sweetbreads, one of its specialities, to food normally served in pubs.

“We were all overwhelmed by winning the Michelin star. It’s a great achievement,” said Simpson.

“But just after winning it, the owner said he wanted to change the whole concept of the restaurant.

“He wants to change it into a pub and serve burgers and chips.”

The restaurant specialised in modern British cooking with a French twist, and it was dishes such as muntjac deer with lobster and pan-roasted wood pigeon that won over the Michelin judges.

Due to the staff walk-out the restaurant had been forced to close, a spokesman for the owner said, but would reopen in March as a pub.

Simpson said he hoped to relocate the restaurant, under a different name, to new premises.

The Michelin has been the top food guide for more than a century, and winning its top three-star accolade is regarded as a major achievement for a restaurant.

There are 140 restaurants in Britain and Ireland which have been recognised by the guide with one, two or three stars.

The Michelin “Red Guide” began in 1900 as a way of promoting tyres and guiding owners of the first motor cars to France’s best restaurants


Michelin Chefs and The Fast Food Market

France’s top chefs used to dismiss the fast-food industry as a pariah in the world of gastronomy and an insult to their lofty ideals. Now they are themselves making take-away pizzas.

In what may go down as one of the greatest publicity coups in the 60-year history of fast food, La Boite a Pizza – France’s second-biggest chain – has enrolled four Michelin starred chefs to produce its new recipes.

Each will create two pizzas for the group, which has 136 outlets, mainly in France, helping to demolish the final barrier between la grande gastronomie and la restauration rapide.

The first , a Gorgonzola, lardon, balsamic caramel, garden rocket and walnut pizza – went on sale last week after the recipe was devised by Mauro Colagreco, who was named Cook of the Year by the prestigious GaultMillau guide in 2009.

“It was a fun thing to do, especially as I am of Italian origin,” said the chef, whose restaurant, Le Mirazur on the French Riviera, is celebrated for the herbs and flowers he grows in his garden and serves in his dishes. “It’s not something I’d do all the time but as a once off, it was enjoyable.”

He said he had no qualms about working for a fast food chain. “Fine cuisine should be for everyone, and not just for an elite. The truth is that fast food is changing and opening up to other markets and we cooks have to evolve as well. We cannot stay the same and not change for ever.”

Frantz Lallement, the founder of La Boite a Pizza, said that Nicolas Stamm, whose restaurant, La Fourchette des Ducs in Alsace has two Michelin stars, had also agreed to produce a takeaway pizza for him.

The name of the other two chefs have not yet been made public.

Mr Lallement said he expected to sell about 2,000 pizzas des grands chefs a day – out of total sales of about 25,000 a day. They are priced at Euro16.50 – £14.50

“In the past, chefs didnt want to have any thing to do with the fast-food business and people used to smile when I talked about making gourmet pizzas,” said Mr Lallement. “Today, chefs are happy to play around with the idea.”

The overall sum Mr Lallement is likely to pay the four cooks signed by La Boite a Pizza will be about 200 000 euros – the exact amount depends on sales. But this may turn out to be a bargain given the publicity he is generating.


French Female Michelin Chef

A 32-year-old French chef who serves tea to match her Chinese themed dishes won a precious star in the latest edition of France’s prestigious Michelin restaurant guide released on Monday.

The honour for Adeline Grattard, 32, and Yam’Tcha, her small restaurant near Paris’s Louvre museum, was a break from the norm for the 101-year-old guide, sometimes criticised as too traditional and out-of-touch.

Grattard attributes the success of the restaurant’ – which opened just a year ago – partly to her Chinese influences, which are less common in Paris than the Japanese or Thai fusion practiced by other French chefs.

Yam’Tcha serves dishes such as mushrooms and chestnuts accompanied by carefully chosen vintage Chinese teas, or suckling pig with aubergines set off by a spicy red Cotes du Rhone wine.

As rumours of her star circulated in the weeks before the guide’s release, the chef told AFP that being a woman had also given her an edge among France’s male dominated kitchens.

“That has played a part. Not many women set up all by themselves,” said Grattard, who previously worked for two years in Hong Kong where she lived with her Chinese husband.

“I saw and ate lots of things there. My chef encouraged me to bring back whatever I wanted from the market to try it out,” she said.
The guide’s editor-in-chief, Jean-Luc Naret, said he saw a brave new world taking shape as, in the wake of the economic crisis, young itinerant chefs like Grattard come home to France to roost.

“There has been a real explosion of young chefs who are setting the trend. They travel the world and come back with new cooking techniques,” he told AFP ahead of Monday’s release.

“There are more and more Japanese chefs in the kitchen in France and more and more women. The next few decades there will be more of a female influence, I hope.”

Critics have accused the Michelin guide of a blinkered attitude to foreign-influenced cuisine in favour of traditional high-class fare.
“One day Michelin is going to have to explain why it does not open its eyes to gastronomic reality,” wrote Francois Simon, the influential food critic for Le Figaro newspaper, earlier this month.

“It continues to push gastronomically correct cooking, sticking French cuisine in a genteel rut, underestimating the world of bistrots and letting itself be forever impressed by heavy, painstaking work,” he wrote.

“The guide used to be a Bible – now it is losing touch with food enthusiasts.”

Its headline choices were more low-key, however, than last year, when it awarded three stars to a restaurant favoured by President Nicolas Sarkozy, at Paris’s Le Bristol hotel, and two to British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay.

This time it crowned one new three-star restaurant: L’Auberge du Vieux Puits, a traditional eatery that opened in 1992 in Fontjoncouse, a remote village in southwestern France near the Mediterranean coast.

There are only 26 three-star restaurants in France.

The 2010 guide gave 10 restaurants two stars – itself quite an honour, as this brought the number of two-star eateries up to only 77 across France – and 47 won one star, bringing the number to 455.

Naret said that in the wake of the economic downturn the cooking world on the whole was “getting back to its roots,” focussing on local seasonal produce after years of globalised extravagance.

“Thanks to the crisis, a lot of restaurants are also going to have to reinvent their style of cuisine,” he told AFP.

“Chefs are going back to grandma’s recipes with new techniques and regional produce that is more affordable and unfussy.”


Irelands Newest Michelin Chef

A HOTEL RESTAURANT which has been open less than two years has won a coveted Michelin star.

The House at the Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore, Co Waterford, is the only new Irish entrant in this year’s guide which will be published next week.

The restaurant’s Dutch-born head chef Martijn Kajuiter said he was “absolutely stunned” to be informed by The Irish Times that The House had joined the elite of Irish restaurants.

“It is a great surprise. I never expected it. It is a new hotel. I just arrived in Ireland in 2007, the hotel opened in 2008, it has been a very rocky road,” he said.

A three-course meal at the hotel costs 65 Euros a head and it has a policy of sourcing its produce locally. Much of it is grown in the restaurant’s own garden in Youghal, Co Cork. The menu includes locally caught sole and cod and game from the nearby Ballynatray Estate.

Mr Kajuiter said he took the job as head chef because no Irish chef was up for the challenge of using only local produce.

He cited the example of his smoked salmon starter, which is smoked at the table under a glass dome and served with locally grown radish.

“I try to work with 100 per cent Irish produce. In the end they had to look further than Ireland and came up with me,” he said.

The award is also good news for the hotel’s embattled owner Barry O’Callaghan, in a week in which he has said he and fellow investors have lost millions in the Education Media and Publishing Group (EMPG), the US publishing company where he is the chief executive.

Mr O’Callaghan spent years redeveloping the hotel in Ardmore Bay before it reopened in May 2008.

“As in any business, it is all about the team. Martijn and his team are super people, highly talented and most deserving of this star,” he said.

The restaurant is closed for most of January and will reopen in February.

The House is one of only six Irish restaurants with a Michelin star. Patrick Guilbaud in Merrion Square remains Ireland’s only two-star restaurant.

Chapter One, L’Ecrivain, Thornton’s and Bon Appetit in Dublin and Deanes in Belfast all retain theirs. Mint in Ranelagh, which had a star, closed last year


Michelin Chefs

They are renowned across the globe as creators of some of the worlds finest and most popular dishes. But Italian chefs are threatening their nations culinary reputation by being more concerned with their fame than cooking, according to the worlds top food guide.

The criticism from Michelin follows Italys poor performance in its latest guide, which awards only five Italian restaurants the coveted three-star status the same number as in the 2007 guide. In comparison, France was awarded 26 three-star ratings, Germany nine, Spain six and Japan eight.

Fausto Arrighi, editor of the Michelin guide for Italy, blamed the attitude of the nations chefs. Many Italian chefs think of themselves a bit too much as stars. They are always on TV, or travelling to competitions and conferences, he said.

Mr Arrighi said that when inspectors called, chefs were often not working in the kitchen and behaved like prima donnas. His words have triggered an outcry in Italy.

Fulvio Pierangelini said Michelins standards were too bourgeois to allow for chefs of individual character.

Mr Pierangelini, who runs the Gambero Rosso restaurant at San Vincenzo on the Tuscan coast and is also the popular host of a television cookery programme, said that Italy had been snubbed because the reviewers thought the country lacked economic and moral weight. Yet when they bother to come here to eat they are often astounded at the level we have attained, he said.Who knows how long it will take them to realise their mistake. You will have a great deal more fun with me than in a restaurant in Dresden.

Regarding his television appearances, he said: I am also on TV in France, because I am adored there.

Gianfranco Vissani, another celebrity chef and owner of the Ristorante Vissani at Baschi in Umbria, admitted that he was more often abroad on promotional tours than in Italy, but said that this was because we do not have enough customers at home to enable the restaurants which have reached a high level to survive.

He said that in France, by contrast, restaurants as expensive as mine are always full. He said he had been making television appearances for years, because it amuses me.

Gualtiero Marchesi, who runs a restaurant at Erbusco, near Brescia in Lombardy, said that Italian chefs were often self-taught because of a shortage of cookery schools.

We Italians have a genius for getting by without order and rules, he said. He plans to found a cookery school to create a new generation of real professionals, but Im struggling to get a hearing.

The Italian media expressed similar sentiments. La Repubblica said that Michelins judgments were a great injustice. It seems our restaurants are undervalued said a commentator on RAI, Italian state television. Our ingredients are the best in the world, and our chefs have nothing to be ashamed of either.

Italy? You eat better in Germany, said La Stampa, the Turin paper.

The five restaurants that have kept their three stars are the Pergola at the Hilton Hotel in Rome, where the chef is Heinz Beck, who is German by origin but Italian by adoption; Al Sorriso at Soriso in Piedmont; Del Pescatore near Mantua; Le Calandre (The Larks) near Padua; and the Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence.


Just a flavour . . .

Ristorante Vissani
Baschi, Italy

Onion and liver ravioli
Lobster tail sauted with pears and butter
Duck with roast tomatoes in balsamic sauce
Vanilla flan

San Sebastin, Spain

Egg and truffle in goose fat with chorizo
Sea bass with scallops and leeks ash
Bonito with winter savoury vegetables and mentholated fishbone
Strawberry bubbles