Friday, May 10, 2013

What is Michelin Star: Michelin Stars The Madness of Perfection

 





Michelin Star Controversies


Allegations of Lax Inspection Standards and Bias.

Pascal Rémy, a veteran France-based Michelin inspector, and also a former Gault Millau employee, wrote a tell-all book in 2004 entitled L'Inspecteur se Met à Table (literally, "The Inspector Sits Down at the Table"; idiomatically, "The Inspector Spills the Beans", or "The Inspector Puts It All on the Table"). Rémy's employment was terminated in early 2004 when he informed Michelin of his plans to publish his book. He brought a court case for unfair dismissal, which was unsuccessful.

Rémy described the French Michelin inspector's life as lonely, underpaid drudgery, driving around France for weeks on end, dining alone, under intense pressure to file detailed reports on strict deadlines. He claimed the Guide had become lax in its standards. Though Michelin states that its inspectors visited all 4,000 reviewed restaurants in France every 18 months, and all starred restaurants several times a year, Rémy said only about one visit every 3.5 years was possible because there were only 11 inspectors in France when he was hired, rather than the 50 or more hinted by Michelin. That number, he said, had shrunk to five by the time he was fired in 2003.

Furthermore, Rémy charged, the Guide played favorites. He specifically named Paul Bocuse, the pioneer of nouvelle cuisine, whose restaurant, l'Auberge du Pont de Collonges, near Lyon, was known, according to Rémy, to have declined considerably in quality, yet continued to hold 3 stars. Michelin denied Rémy's charges, but refused to say how many inspectors it actually employed in France. In response to Rémy's claim that certain 3-star chefs were untouchable, Michelin said only, "...if [our ratings] weren't true...customers would write and tell us."


Allegations of Bias for French Cuisine

As the Michelin Guide is published by a French company, some American food critics have claimed that the rating system is biased in favor of French cuisine or French dining standards. When Michelin published its first New York City Red Guide, for example, Steven Kurutz of The New York Times noted that Danny Meyer's Union Square Cafe, a restaurant rated highly by The New York Times, Zagat Survey, and other prominent guides, received a no star-rating from Michelin. (He did acknowledge that the restaurant received positive mention for its ambience, and that two other restaurants owned by Meyer received stars.) Kurutz also claimed the guide appeared to favor restaurants that "emphasized formality and presentation" rather than a "casual approach to fine dining". He also claimed that over half of the restaurants that received one or two stars "could be considered French".


Allegations of Leniency With Stars for Japanese Cuisine

In 2010, Michelin guides ranked Japan as the country with the most starred restaurants. This sparked grumbling over whether these high ratings are merited for Japanese restaurants, whether Michelin guide was too generous in giving out stars to gain an acceptance with Japanese customers and to enable the parent tire-selling company to market itself in Japan. Although they have highly praised Japanese cuisine and the devotion of its chefs, some critics were surprised by the award of one star for restaurants that serve traditional Japanese cuisines in casual homely ambience with only ten tables or, in one notable instance, situated next to a subway entrance.

Michelin spokeswoman claimed comparing Japan and France is impossible, given Tokyo has 160,000 restaurants while Paris has 15,000. Some Japanese chefs were surprised after they were awarded a star, claiming they didn't expect one, and wished they didn't get Michelin stars because the publicity caused an unmanageable jump in customer bookings – affecting their ability to serve their traditional customers without lowering their quality.


What is Michelin Guide?

The Michelin Guide (French: Guide Michelin [ɡid miʃ.lɛ̃]) is a series of annual guide books published by the company Michelin for over a dozen countries. The term normally refers to the Michelin Red Guide, the oldest and best-known European hotel and restaurant reference guide, which awards the Michelin stars. Michelin also publishes Green Guides for travel and tourism, as well as several newer publications such as the Guide Voyageur Pratique (independent travel), Guide Gourmand (good-value eating-places), Guide Escapade (quick breaks) and Guide Coup de Cœur (favorite hotels).

First published in 1900 for France, Michelin introduced additional guides thereafter for other European countries. In 2005, it published the first guide for the United States focusing on New York City; followed by its first Asian guide in 2007 for Tokyo. In 2012, the Michelin Guide collection had 27 guide books covering 23 countries on three continents, with over 45,000 worldwide addresses.

Pink Guides have historically listed many more restaurants than rivals, relying on an extensive system of symbols to describe each establishment in as little as two lines. Reviews of starred restaurants also include two to three culinary specialties. Recently, however, short summaries (2–3 lines) have been added to enhance descriptions of many establishments. These summaries are written in the language of the country for which the guide is published, but the symbols are the same throughout all editions.

Red Guides are also published for selected major cities: Paris, London, Tokyo, Kyoto/Osaka, Hokkaido, Hong Kong & Macau, New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area & Wine Country, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Las Vegas. There is also a Red Guide encompassing the "Main Cities of Europe."

In 2008, German restaurateur Juliane Caspar was appointed Editor-in-Chief of the French edition of the Red Guide. She is the first woman and first non-French national to edit the French edition.


Michelin Stars and Other Ratings



Stars

In 1933 André Michelin and his brother Édouard Michelin introduced the first countrywide French restaurant listings and introduced the Michelin star system for ranking food, later extended to the rest of the world. The guide awards one to three stars to a small number of restaurants of outstanding quality. One star indicates "very good cuisine in its category"; two stars represent "excellent cuisine, worth a detour"; and a rare three stars are awarded to restaurants offering "exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey." As of late 2009, there were 26 three-star restaurants in France, and a total of 81 in the world.

Michelin reviewers (commonly called "inspectors") are completely anonymous; they do not identify themselves, and their meals and expenses are paid for by the company founded by the Michelin brothers, never by a restaurant being reviewed.

The New Yorker article states: 'Michelin has gone to extraordinary lengths to maintain the anonymity of its inspectors. Many of the company’s top executives have never met an inspector; inspectors themselves are advised not to disclose their line of work, even to their parents (who might be tempted to boast about it); and, in all the years that it has been putting out the guide, Michelin has refused to allow its inspectors to speak to journalists. The inspectors write reports that are distilled, in annual “stars meetings” at the guide’s various national offices, into the ranking of three stars, two stars, or one star—or no stars. (Establishments that Michelin deems unworthy of a visit are not included in the guide.) A three-star Michelin ranking is exceedingly rare.

The French chef Paul Bocuse, one of the pioneers of nouvelle cuisine in the 1960s, said, "Michelin is the only guide that counts." In France, each year, at the time the guide is published, it sparks a media frenzy which has been compared to that for annual Academy Awards for movies. Media and people debate likely winners, speculation is rife, and TV and newspapers discuss which restaurant might lose, and who might gain, a Michelin star.


Rising Stars

The Michelin Guide also awards Rising Stars, an indication that a given restaurant has the potential to qualify for a star, or an additional star.

Since 1955, the guide has also highlighted restaurants offering "good food at moderate prices", a feature now called "Bib Gourmand". They must offer menu items priced below a maximum determined by local economic standards. Bib (Bibendum) is the company's nickname for the Michelin Man, its corporate logo for over a century.


Other Ratings

All listed restaurants, regardless of their star- or Bib Gourmand-status, also receive a "fork and spoon" designation, as a subjective reflection of the overall comfort and quality of the restaurant.  Rankings range from one to five: One fork and spoon represents a "comfortable restaurant" and five signifies a "luxurious restaurant". Forks and spoons colored red designate a restaurant that is considered "pleasant" as well.

Restaurants, independently of their other ratings in the guide, can also receive a number of other symbols next to their listing.

1. Coins indicate restaurants that serve a menu for a certain price or less, depending on the local monetary standard. In 2010 France, 2011 US and Japan Red Guides, the maximum permitted "coin" prices are €19, $25, and ¥5000, respectively.

2. Interesting view or Magnificent view, designated by a black or red symbol, are given to restaurants offering those features.

3. Grapes, a sake set, or a cocktail glass indicate restaurants that offer, at minimum, a "somewhat interesting" selection of wines, sake, or cocktails, respectively.


Green Guides

The Green Guides review and rate attractions other than restaurants. There is a Green Guide for France as a whole, and a more detailed one for each of ten regions within France. Other Green Guides cover many countries, regions, and cities outside France. Many Green Guides are published in several languages. They include background information and an alphabetical section describing points of interest. Like the Red Guides, they use a three-star system for recommending sights ranging from "worth a trip" to "worth a detour", and "interesting".

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