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Does The Michelin Guide Have Stars In Its Eyes

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

1000

Recently in Chicago many restaurants received their first Michelin star. Some received one, some two and in a singular instance the coveted three Michelin stars. When the stars were awarded it was exciting to have so many Michelin worthy restaurants in our midst. However, many of the stars seem misplaced and the star ratings just didn’t seem to match up in my opinion.

 

Since the Michelin stars were awarded it has raised the question, are the standards for the United States vs. restaurants in Europe the same? By my observations they seem grossly unequal. While this may be a known dilemma I was uncertain which compelled me to put my thoughts down and see how the ChefTalk community felt. 

 

Many years ago it was my privilege to work in a one Michelin star restaurant in France. In addition I have also been blessed with many opportunities to dine in some of the finest restaurants in the world.

Within Europe:

  • Georges Blanc - Vonnas France (3 stars)
  • Comme Chez Soi - Belgium (2 stars)
  • Le Grand Vefour - Paris (2 stars)
  • La Tour D’Argent – Paris (2 stars).

 

In the US:

  • Alinea - Chicago (3 stars)
  • Charlie Trotter - Chicago (2 stars)
  • Blackbird, Courtright's, Moto, Schwa, Naha, Tru, Nomi, Avenues, Vie, Topolbampo and Sixteen - all in Chicago (all 1 star at the time I dined there).

 

After years of fine dining experience my observation is that US based restaurants don’t even come close to the European restaurants who have the same number of stars.

 

Years ago while dining at Georges Blanc in Vonnas France I enjoyed a meal that was truly something special. After the meal it was clear why this wonderful restaurant received 3 stars. Every aspect of the experience from the plates and silverware, to the decor, to the amazing food and beyond belief service were all perfection. Not one mistake and I mean that not one.

 

One experience I have had repeatedly when dining at European restaurants that have been awarded a Michelin star such as George Blanc, Comme Chez Soi, or Le Grand Vefour is this. The patron is made to feel that their experience and enjoyment are the focus. Not the restaurant, not the chef, not the wait staff but the patron is the center of attention. Often when I dine at a restaurant in the United States I get the feeling that the wait staff is doing me a favor instead of providing great service. In my opinion it will never matter how great the food is if it ends up being served by someone who does not understand and has never received proper training on the art and craft of service.

 

I like to think how Anthony Bourdain might put it and in my mind it would go something like: “Look, it doesn’t matter if you have Escoffier himself in the kitchen. If you have some buffon actor wannabe who has worked as a waiter for 3 years serving the food you are going to have a crappy experience.” I digress…Back to the issue at hand.

 

The food is the other side of the coin in this dilemma. While some of the restaurants truly deliver awe inspiring food (Alinea and Tru come to mind) many simply don’t. Yes, the dish often has interesting flavors and unique textures, but the composition as a whole rarely rings true of a skilled chef. That probably sounds harsh but I believe that if a restaurant is asking a guest to pay large sums of money to dine in their restaurant it should be excellent, not ok. Numerous restaurants that are publicized as the “top” restaurants charge incredibly high prices for food that is at best, just ok.

 

What distinguishes between a good meal and the truly spectacular? The diner knows from the very first bite. The food tastes so wonderful that you find it difficult to believe something from nature can be crafted in such a way. And, you remember the meal for years to come. Though it has been over 15 years since Georges Blanc I have fond memories of a once in a lifetime experience. It was a restaurant that clearly worked hard for their three stars and in my opinion deserved every one of them.

 

To receive a Michelin star a restaurant needs to posses great food, and great service. You simply can’t have one without the other. The sad fact is few of the restaurants that received Michelin stars in the United States have both elements, it is usually one or the other and in many cases neither. It is as if the star was awarded just because stars needed to be awarded to some restaurants to help promote interest in the Michelin guides. To read more about the criteria of the Michelin star ratings visit their site at: http://www.michelintravel.com/methodology/

 

A great article about this topic is over at Chicagoeater.com. They do an excellent job of pointing out that although North Pond chef Bruce Sherman received the James Beard award this year his restaurant did not receive a single star. http://chicago.eater.com/archives/2011/11/15/michelin-guide-revealed-alinea-gets-3-stars-l20-drops-to-1-avenues-off-list.php  

 

 

So what are your thoughts?

Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
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Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
Reply
post #2 of 23

I've never eaten at a michelin rated restaurant. There are some local restaurants that have chefs with background at michelin rated places.  

 

From those, I find the food tends to be trendy with more attitude than quality at those places, at least to my personal preferences which probably don't align with michelin either.

post #3 of 23

OK. I know I have a very special (and probably considered twisted) attitude about "good food" and "proper service".  I've eaten in M* places, and I don't get it.  I've worked in M* places, and I pretty much don't get that either.  The places I've worked in were 50/50 over-the-top chefs or WTF machines (the kitchen operates like an assembly machine).  Believe it or not, Alinea is one of the latter types.  I don't see molecular gastronomy as worthy of 3-***.  I call it voo-doo food.  For me, I want killer dishes of real food, that I will remember and want to recreate when I make them.  I want them made with products that I don't have to source from 27 different places and pay through the nose for.  I want to pay $100 for two(2) people before tip.  Fourteen(14) plates of foods that could each fill a creme brulee ramekin for $265 doesn't work for me; neither does a garbage can lid sized plate full for $10.  OK.  I'll admit that maybe I just don't get it.  That's fair enough.  I do know what I like though.  

 

I think these are both desserts:

700 700

 

Neither really works for me. Sorry. 


Edited by IceMan - 8/13/12 at 7:56pm

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

Reply

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

Reply
post #4 of 23

I too have eaten at several Michelin star places  (French Laundry, Tru, Trotters..........) I have experienced the Chef's vision of their food. And that's the point here. These people provide a different kind of eating opportunity to those who wish to attempt it. It's not for everybody.

Some people would look at that table created dessert from Alinea (yes that was dessert) and say

"WOW!"

others would look at it and say

"Why did they make such a mess right on my table?"

 

As in anything....there is a following for such things.

 

The OP touched on something when they said that it is the total "whole" of the dining experience that makes it Michelin starred.

 

For instance.........recently Courtright's in a far west suburb of Chicago (Western Springs) attained a star. I've been there, and the food is fantastic, the scenery out the huge picture windows is beautiful but, to me, the service does not make it worthy of a star.

post #5 of 23

Buonasera Nico, Good Afternoon,

 

As you are aware, I have been to numerous starred venues, including Ferràn Adrià, Joan Roca and Carme Ruscadella in Spain. In 2010, while in Manhattan, we had gone for lunch at Per Se, owned by Tom Keller.

 

This is an extraordinaire experience which cannot be compared to a great restaurant that does not have stars from the Parisian Guide.

 

It is about Show & Show Off and Uniqueness ... It is not a great meal as we have culturally been accustomed to, especially in the Mediterranean sense of greatness.  

 

Joan and Carme are totally different than Adrià was ... The epicurism is amazing, astonishing and offers a whole array of new possibilities ... However, it is not Italian or Greek for me ... Italian, by Paternal ancestry and French Swiss by Maternal, and Greek is my 2nd fave cuisine by adoption ...

 

However, if we are speaking about The Guide and the Enterprise: this is a corporation and a political corporation at that, and the examiners, are usually noted though they do not breathe a word; and all corporations are veered toward the business of making money, and this corporation is no different.They want to sell travel guides.

 

I do not judge a restaurant by its stars. I know uncountable chefs, who are phenomenal who work for five star hotels and thus, the restaurants can not have a Michelin according to the guidelines of Michelin.

 

*** My photo albums contain many photos of Michelin Plates and the Chefs who had created them.

 

Interesting post Nico.

Have a lovely August,

Ciao, Margaux.   

post #6 of 23

   Hi Nicko!

 

  Thanks for your well thought out post, I enjoyed reading it.

 

     I haven't been to Europe to have the pleasure of eating in any of their restaurants.  But I have been eating at some nice restaurants here, in the US.  Most of the places have been in the Chicago area and some have received Michelin star(s).  I still haven't found one to reach the level of excellence that La Francais has...not one.  You bring up many valid points regarding a fine dining experience being the whole of food and service together.  But just talking about the food for a moment, At the heart of the dining experience should be the food...with an attention to detail...  extreme balance in flavors, textures, temperatures...everything should be done with excellence.  I hear about chefs stating that Demi-Glace Gold being difficult to distinguish from the real thing.  I'm sorry, this is not good enough for a high end dining experience.  You can taste (and feel) the difference.  I am not that great of a cook and I shouldn't be able to prepare a pork belly better than that I receive at a Michelin star restaurant.  Sure, it's good, but shouldn't it be better than good.   I just haven't found the level of quality that I received from that outdated, now closed restaurant in Wheeling.  

 

 

   Thanks again for your post!

   Dan

post #7 of 23
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the comments. What I am really asking is do you feel there a difference between restaurants that receive a michelin star in Europe as opposed to ones that receive it in the United States. I believe there is.

 

Gonefishin I hear what your saying about the food and while I do believe that is where it should start. I mean the food has to be great but, I believe when you are talking about a restaurant that receives three michelin stars you are no longer just talking about the food. You are talking about the restaurant, the staff, the service, the china, the wine cellar, it is one complete package. I think the issue with Alinea is that the 3 stars are almost entirely on the food where as if you looked at its dining room, location, tables, chairs etc they are not 3 star worthy. 

 

Some of the restaurants in Chicago that received their stars like Naha I felt were spot on. In fact I think the location, dining room are much better than Alineas. I also think their food is excellent and not a science experiment. That is not to say I don't enjoy Alinea but it is not really a place you would be a regular. Naha is a place I look forward to going back to again and again.

 

 

Nicko

Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
Reply
Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
Reply
post #8 of 23

Differences between EU and USA Michelin Restaurants:  I have not eaten in enough USA based Michelin Star venues to answer this question objectively.

 

The best restaurants I have eaten in, that are Michelin are in Spain, Catalonia, France, Greece and two in Italia.

 

As I stated before, it is a business, and if a business does not profit, it shall fail. This is a publishing house amongst having other connected service businesses.

 

It is obvious that the number of Michelin star restaurants is much larger in France for example than any other nation. This is French company.

 

According to Sobremesa Magazine, France has received more stars this past year than any other country. In prior years,  they would correlate the number of stars given more fairly.

 

The USA also has Zagat ... This is less common to my knowledge ... I have never seen Zagat as a physical guidebook here ...

 

Best. Regards.

Margaux.

post #9 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicko View Post

Thanks for the comments. What I am really asking is do you feel there a difference between restaurants that receive a michelin star in Europe as opposed to ones that receive it in the United States. I believe there is.

 

Gonefishin I hear what your saying about the food and while I do believe that is where it should start. I mean the food has to be great but, I believe when you are talking about a restaurant that receives three michelin stars you are no longer just talking about the food. You are talking about the restaurant, the staff, the service, the china, the wine cellar, it is one complete package. I think the issue with Alinea is that the 3 stars are almost entirely on the food where as if you looked at its dining room, location, tables, chairs etc they are not 3 star worthy. 

 

Some of the restaurants in Chicago that received their stars like Naha I felt were spot on. In fact I think the location, dining room are much better than Alineas. I also think their food is excellent and not a science experiment. That is not to say I don't enjoy Alinea but it is not really a place you would be a regular. Naha is a place I look forward to going back to again and again.

 

 

Nicko

 

 

  Hi Nicko, I understand what you're saying about the three star restaurants and agree that it should encompass the total dining experience.   Having never eaten at any Michelin Star restaurants in Europe, I do not have anything to compare to the US counterparts.

 

  Eat well!

 

Dan

post #10 of 23

Nico,

 

After some thought and discussion, I believe the main difference we have experienced is the velocity, at least in Manhattan at the Michelin Star we had been to.

 

The Mediterranean meal lingers on and on and the pace is much slower.

 

 

 

Margaux.

post #11 of 23

I have had meals in many starred places both in Europe and the US. Of all I must say France ranks high. The waitstaff are pro and to them this vocation is their lifes not a job. The kitchens strive for perfection . The whole experience is different . Seems to be no hustle and busel . In France you have dessert,  then pettit fours and cookies and then maybe cheese. Let us not forget the intermezzo and in some cases salad after entree., served with a cold fork. I have never had that in NY. Lunch started at 12 and I lft about 3.30 in France. Really a great experience. I  am talking Bocuse, Chanterell, Restaurant Pic etc. all old school  but  Unbelievalble

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply
post #12 of 23

Buon Giorno,

 

I am in agreement with Chef Ed B. in reference to the Traditional French Michelin Star establishments and the manner they are managed and carryout their formal training for their employees. It is very similiar in San Sebastián, The Basque Country at Luis Irizar´s Restaurant who is the Mentor and Culinary Genius who trained Juan Mari Arzak and Pedro Subijana.

 

The Catalans Joan Roca and Carme Ruscadella also come from this Traditional Training.

 

In France, Paul Bucuse in Lyons,  Michel Bras and Joël Rubuchon, and Alain Ducasse who are all quite well known internationally come from this Traditional School.

 

Another interesting point, is the very local products, that are humble & unassuming for example in April, at Carme Ruscadella´s venue, Fresh Sweet Peas were one of the items  that were served in a 3 Michelin; and the changing of the wines, with each dish a wine is paired, verses 1 bottle for the meal; is very common here.    

 

Nico, are humble very local ingredients employed by Michelin Chefs in the USA ?

 

We were a bit surprised with Carme´s Menu Selection.

 

Joan Roca, on the other hand, also a Catalan Chef, and his restaurant called El Celler Can Roca, the 2nd Best Restaurant in the world according to London Restaurant Magazine and San Pellegrino; specialises in Sous Vide, and serving local regional Girona dishes in a Japanese manner, however, the product selection is very local and regional.  The wine experience is amazing and the Masterful yet aboslutely delightfully social Joan, invites you to have a round or two of after dinner drinks and coffees in the waiting salon on violet velvet seatees glassed in a garden setting.

 

 

Awesome, the Ferrán Adrià of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Chef Alex Atala, is extraordinaire, combining Brazilian Indigenious flora and fauna ingredients with Portuguese, Italian & French classics. Certainly, has a unique vision with classic culinary European trained skills.

 

Another, interesting Michelin Star Chef, is Fernando del Cerro of Casa José of Aranjuez, Madrid County ... He grows all his own produce and uses local Aranjuez and Iberian ecological  regional products. Has a gorgeous line of premise baked goods, as he was a Baker, prior to his Culinary Training, in which he interned at Juan Mari Arzak and Galician Toni Vincente.

 

Are USA Chefs´ product preferences more to the local city and state in which they operate or do they transport from other states at a distance ?  

 

 

Interesting Post to Follow.

 

Thanks for a great topic Nico.

Margaux.  

post #13 of 23

Today some US chefs try and secure products locally. However some are paid for endorsing certain products. I do not agree with this sought of arrangement. A big example would be Black Angus Beef. All this is , is a name that is a tardemark and copy writed protected so you can't use the name unless you buy the meat which in   my  opinion is overrated and overpriced.. PS  Burger King used it for a while describing their Burger???

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply
post #14 of 23

Chef Ed,

 

Burger King ! ? 

 

There is alot of endorsement of regional Spanish products here too, however,  with 25% unemployment and the severity of the Crisis in Spain, Greece and Italy; buying local products is the way the vast  majority of the population has been purchasing. Why pay 25 Euros a Kilo for blue cheese varieties that come from other countries, when the blue cheese from Cabrales, Asturias, Spain is only 16 Euros a Kilo ?  or in Italia, Gorgonzola is only 12 Euros a kilo over in Puglia anyway.

 

Ferràn Adrià endorses Fever Tree lemon soda and Mineral water, and a case of 6 bottles, sells for 6 Euros and Spanish Ecological mineral water is half that amount.

 

Interesting post all around.

 

Thanks for the feedback and contrubution.

Margi.  

post #15 of 23

...Grand Vefour, WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Andduring my stay in Paris and having eaten at a few 'starred restaurants, I share Nicko's feelings.  The customer/diner/client is King and the wait staff is there to serve and not be snotty.

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
(1 photos)
 
Reply

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
(1 photos)
 
Reply
post #16 of 23
Thread Starter 

Where did you dine at Koko?

Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
Reply
Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
Reply
post #17 of 23

All I remember was Bistro 101 (three stars??) in the 16'th(?).  Man oh man, did the sommelier ever teach us about the goodness of Portuguese wines.

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
(1 photos)
 
Reply

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
(1 photos)
 
Reply
post #18 of 23
Thread Starter 

Koko, Le Grand Vefour was fantastic. The food was superb and I the cheese cart was inspiring. Please enjoy some photos from the experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
Reply
Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
Reply
post #19 of 23

Raymond Oliver, the 'chef inspirateur' of Grand Vefour, his book entitled LA CUISINE was my actual inspirations start in good cooking.  Quite rich in butterfat, his recipes are fabulous.  That book was then followed up with Escoffier's well known book.  What a beginning and I've spent over 35 years perfecting my skills with no professional input other than books and cds.  And thanks Nicko for the pics!

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
(1 photos)
 
Reply

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
(1 photos)
 
Reply
post #20 of 23

Nice Picts this type of work is typical in France where I enjoyed  3  hour lunches. Best showman of all was Paul Bocuse fantasti ambiance. I went to one place forgot name owned by father and son team it was unreal was in the middle of a small town. Also rest. Pic in Valance was great.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply
post #21 of 23

Nico,

 

Thank you for posting your lovely photos. Certainly is on my to go List the next time we fly up to Paris.

 

Best regards.

Margaux.

post #22 of 23

Chef Carme Ruscadella, Three Michelin Stars in Sant Pau, Barcelona, Catalonia Photos.

 

 

 

* Fresh herbed goat cheese teaster.  

 

* Fruit Tart. 

 

 

* Orbiting Planetary Candies.

 

 

 

Ciao,

Margaux.

post #23 of 23

 

 

 

Photo Courtesy: From our dear friend Chef Joan Roca.

 

Celler Can Roca - Girona, Iberian Peninsula.

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