View Full Version : Michelin Stars - What are they really worth?
08-04-2013, 04:51 AM
This topic grew out of the discussion in a B/S/T thread, and it deserves its own debate.
Michelin Stars. To some, these are the ultimate accolade, a proud badge of honor for chefs and for their patrons, a reason to travel far and pay large sums of money for a bite to eat. To others, its nothing more than a bunch of stuck up French snobs judging the work of others as if they are THE authority on gastronomy in the world.
The stars can make or break a restaurant, drive chefs to fame or drive them to insanity, and in some cases, consume a chef's soul.
Are these stars the guiding light leading diners to sensory bliss? Are they the penultimate standard of having achieved the highest quality food and cooking for chefs? Or are they false symbols of an archaic and highly prejudiced "old boys club" that has its collective head stuck far up its own ass?
What do you guys think?
08-04-2013, 07:07 AM
I just look at it as a rating system. Sure, it probably is "The Gold Standard", but I have personally never worked or even eaten at a place with a single star.
Would I like to?
Yes and yes!
I do feel that some people can go a little too far with the whole thing though. I don't think a place needs to have them to prove their worth.
I'm sure there are plenty of places out there that I would enjoy more than a place with stars.
08-04-2013, 08:59 AM
At least they aren't a crowd sourced popularity contest.
08-04-2013, 08:59 AM
Why do we call a cook a chef?
To me Michelin brings more positives than negatives.
This is because they promote devoting to the industry. Some time ago I was thinking the rating is about quality of the food, but its mostly showing the level of dedication.
Take Noma as an example, to me a place that should not be existing really. The food there might not be to everyones personal tastes, but people working there are dedicated to the highest quality of serving of what they produce. That is until it came out that they dont wash their hands obviously.
And if not the Michelin Stars, how many of you would actually have heard about it in the first place?
Saying that, I got served frozen scallop in one place, and almost everything was underseasoned. I think out of like 10 dishes I managed to eat before I had to go out, 2 or 3 were really delicious, the rest was merely OK. Definitely not one high level.
The service was a bit obtrusive, I guess it was because we were one of the 4-5 tables at lunch time and there was 6 servers.
At some other spot the seafood in one dish had tendency to be tough to the point of eater having to choose: spit it out or swallow it.
So overrated guide? Yes to me. But going to a city Ive never been before, not knowing where to go for nice dinner, I would first look for small family run one star restaurant.
It might not be the best dinner of my life, but certainly it wouldnt be the worst, and you kind of can expect the wine to be decent and in right temps and plates to be polished, ohh and no cockroaches ;)
And it doesnt need to be expensive.
08-04-2013, 09:29 AM
I really can not add anything about the current state of affairs; but I can add a perspective (FWIW)>
From a consumers point of view..Having traveled through europe a lot with my family in the 60's, 70's and early 80's the Michelin guide provided a sure list of hotels with contacts and quality of accomodation. The guid provided maps to the accomidations and restaurants. The restaurants were rated not only by star; but there was a fork system that rated those places that were not up into the star's. You could count on those forks to steer you to some good food. And importantly, the Michelin european guides were updated annually.
At that time if we went three star (not often) I knew there would be a lot of food prepared from rare or unusual ingredients. In these instances dinner would be more of an event; cullinary theater if you will. We often felt more comfortable at the 1 and 2 star resteraunts and ate very well in some of those rated with forks. Today? I am relatively ignorant of their meaning (relative to most board members no doubt).
08-04-2013, 09:30 AM
But going to a city Ive never been before, not knowing where to go for nice dinner, I would first look for small family run one star restaurant.
Exactly what i did before when i traveled. But sadly find out it is bulluks
So i never go for those stars again. You pay extra for that star without getting more
So i never go for those stars anymore thats for sure, BTW Noma was not known for its Michelin :) It was because of Restaurant Magazin
Now i mostly look at Restaurant Magazin and tripadvisor :D
08-04-2013, 09:44 AM
The humble guide once published to list the names of the restaurants worth eating became such a phenomenon beacuse of the value we add to it as consumers and more as chefs. It brings fortune along with the stress of maintaining it in some cases the fear of losing a star makes people ruin or take their own lives...
I would recoomend anyone who is interested in this subject to watch on youtube " the madness of perfection "
I believe Michelin lost some credibility over the last years due to its " it has to be french influenced" policy . Lot of good Italian restaurants were not seen worthy any stars beacuse the food was not as complex (altough IMHO tastier ) but when the expansion towards the Asia started they have started dishing out stars like nothing. Even a tiny dimsum restaurant in Hong Kong got awared one while they are lot of chefs around the world busting their ..... to get a star got nothing beacuse their style was not fine , food not complex...
I think St.Pellegrino's worlds best 50 restaurant guide is a better guide than Michelin , altough I would find it wrong to call a place 1st or 5th since you are comparing to apples and oranges since those experiences will be never the same
Also food is not the only side of , the other side obviuosly service. I have dined at Michelin starred restaurants few times. For instance I found the service at a 3 star restaurant (NY ) good but little too interruptive . I had a very bad experience at a 1 star SF restaurant.
The area that you are at is also important beacuse Michelin ratings don't cover the whole globe. There are multiple 3 star quality restaurants here in Australia but they don't have the rating system here , so you can only check their success by st.Pellegrino's list.
Altough the rating sysyem doesn't exist there I had better food and service in an Atlanta restaurant (multiple times ) than a 2 starred restaurant.
Even as a chef you were doing everything at your end , if you didn't have the wine list , or the consistent serive to go with it , you wouldn't get a star.
Favouritism plays a great role in getting stars as well , if you do the math of how many secret diners they have versus how many restaurants they "rate" , the figures don't add up. There was a confession of a former Michelin inspector roaming online , it was an interesting article.
I have done a stage in a Restaurant it was ranked in top 20 in St.pellegrino's list and I got a tell you , I have no intensions to work in a kitchen where I have no creativity from 8 am to 1pm everyday cooking only 3 dishes lunch and dinner. I will rather try to chase the local equivalent here by myself rather tahn working like a rat.
I will be doing another stage in a 3star restaurant sometime this summer , I will let you know if my view changes..
08-04-2013, 10:04 AM
I can only speak to the five Michelin starred restaurants in Chicago that my Wife and I have been to and all were exceptional dining experiences. My only regrets from our dining experiences at a Michelin restaurant would be Alinea's wine pairing, whose cost did not mirror the amount of wine offered. Long story short I wanted to drink more, but that could be a lesson in moderation on my part :hungry: .
Here's my list
Alinea = We've been there twice and both instances were magical although last year was by far the most amazing!
Boka = Great Cocktails, amazing dining area and the best damn rosemary focaccia in all of the land
Graham Elliot = Cool atmosphere, great food and only had one star when we went.
Shwa = took 2 years to get a reservation (I gave up after the first three cancelations) but we finally made it this last spring and with out a doubt Chef Carlson is a true master when it comes to pasta. BYOB = FUN!
GooseFoot = A lovely, romantic and quaint dining experience with amazing food. We've been four times now although we've stopped going due to the slow service. The last two times we went it took us 3.5 hours to go through a 10 course prix fixe.
Michelin isn't everything though, as the best restaurant we've been to that continues to deliver a world-class guest experience every time we eat there is Next, which has 0 stars.
In my experiences, on average, three star restaurants are better than two star which are not necessarily better than one star which are not generally any better than good regional food restaurants with no recognition. I find in large cities one star restaurants are often worse than unrated ones as the effort in those cases seems to be on publicity for a star rather than cuisine. On the contrary, in the middle of nowhere a starred restaurant, especially one serving relatively regional food, is often worth a detour, though you will not always find the height of sophistication.
I worked for some time for a ** chef well before we got Michelin here. We worked our asses off and put out the best we could. When I've talked to him about since about Michelin and retaining his stars, he generally seems to think they are just another bunch of ********. ;)
In the US I have had rather consistently bad experiences in two and three star restaurants. I'm American, and no America basher at all, I've just not been impressed with more than a couple of them having eaten at a good number. But then again, I like food and not pretense, I don't care where "chef" had his inspiration or any other number of unsolicited lectures common in US fine dining, so high end New American doesn't do it for me.
I'm sure they are useful and nice for some people/businesses. For myself, all I care about is for the food to be delicious, not wait too terribly long for it and to be treated like the staff want me to enjoy my meal. I don't care about stars. When I'm in a strange place, I go around asking people that live in the area where they like to eat and pick one of those places.
labor of love
08-04-2013, 08:25 PM
ive been told in the past by more than a few people that many 4 star restaurants actually operate in the red. but the accredition is so valuable it allows for the restaurant group or exec chef other avenues of income, such consulting and media ventures. i have no idea first hand.
08-04-2013, 10:09 PM
I have probably eaten at 11 restaurants that have received stars: (5) Chicago, (5) France, (1) The Netherlands. In general all of them had excellent food and my experience was worth it, and most I would go to again. So I do find them useful to some extent. With that said, I have only gone to a few of them because they have stars, and those were in France.
I do find that in France (and maybe Europe in general) there is a different style of star. The emphasis on replicating dishes with a set quality seems more pronounced, but restaurants in America with stars don't seem to have that same emphasis. With that said, I am not sure one style is better. I've eaten at two three-star restaurants, one in France and one in Chicago, and both were superlative experiences -- though very different.
The only restaurant that I felt didn't deserve its star was Longman and Eagle in Chicago. Pubs have a hard time with the stars as once they get one, they attract a certain type of clientele who might be expecting more white tablecloths. So with stars also come expectations, which may or may not be met.
I think another negative is that restaurants often feel that they have to try keep their stars. It sort of becomes a burden to carry, and changing things might threaten your 'star' and changing chefs certainly does. And if you are demoted, does that mean you are a worse restaurant? Probably not, but sometimes maybe. So just as all that positive press can be gained, it can also be taken away very easily.
Just as Wine Spectator's top 100 wine list skews the market and expectations, so does Michelin.
08-05-2013, 01:06 AM
Michelin definitely very a lot depend in witch country you are in. And to me seems to set pressure and prices up on small restaurants that have one.
Last time i was in one in Kyoto, Japan have super many Michelin.
We went in small place and reserved table in really good time, no photos can be taken, chef seemed very very nerves, because of some high end guests.
Was quite expensive restaurant and there was no real connection between chef and the guests like normally in bar type restaurant in Japan.
Next day we jumped in one without reservation in same kind of restaurant, paid 5 time less, food was even better the day before and chef was super nice, talked to his guest and really relaxing atmosphere, But zero stars
08-05-2013, 01:12 AM
This reminds me of the scene in Spanglish. Were Adam Sandler is saying 3 stars is all right, but 4 is to much pressure.
08-05-2013, 02:17 AM
I have very limited experience with Michelin star restaurants. In the only three star place I have been to I dragged a couple of American friends and we had a good discussion there, actually including the head waitress when it got late (she was French, but her boyfriend had just started a gig at the French laundry where my US friends had also eaten before). My friends said they were more impressed by the French Laundry. It turned out, my friends were more impressed by the colorful presentations, the innovativeness of the food at FL, whereas I was happy as a clam about the traditional but perfect execution and the incredible service at the French place. The French waitress was polite enough to enjoy both. Different expectations, I guess. Oh, and the service was still impeccable, even after my US friend patronized one of the best known sommeliers in France about which wines would go with the courses he wanted...
But I have also been to some other places with one or two stars in France and Germany where I thought I would feel more comfortable if the whole ambience had been less stiff and pretentious. That may be a danger connected to getting stars.
08-05-2013, 07:23 AM
Have you ate least been to the two-star restaurant in Paris called Apicius? ;) I bet you would feel at home there.
08-05-2013, 04:56 PM
A doco about the star maddness
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