Sunday, 14 March 2010

Michelin Guide

I just watched Michelin Stars - The Madness of Perfection on iPlayer which was an interesting investigation into the Michelin Guide, of which the 2010 version was recently published.

The Guide, which started as a advertising tool for Michelin tyres, has taken on a life of its own and is now the bible by which top chefs live and breathe.

In the programme Jean-Luc Naret, director of the Michelin Guide, explained the three criteria by which restaurants are judged:
  • choice of product
  • how the product has been cooked and presented ("the personality of the chef should be expressed on the plate")
  • consistency
These seem pretty straight-forward but the assessment is cloaked in secrecy with anonymous Michelin inspectors judging restaurants numerous times. Many a chef is quoted as not understanding the judging criteria as they fight their way up the ladder; it seems that is is much harder to go from two to three than to achieve a single star.

The programme made me think about what the Michelin Guide means to me. I think it has come to represent the pinnacle of haute cuisine. I aspire to eat at these sort of restaurants and I expect to be amazed every time. Although when you look at the actual definition of the stars. I shouldn't really be expecting this:

* One-star: A very good restaurant in its category
The star indicates a good place to stop on your journey. But beware of comparing the star given to an expensive de luxe establishment with that of a simple restaurant where you can appreciate fine cooking at a reasonable price.

** Two-star: Excellent cooking, worth a detour
Specialities and wines of first class quality. This will be reflected in the price

*** Three-star: Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey
One always eats here extremely well, sometimes superbly. Fine wines, faultless service, elegant surroundings. One will pay accordingly!

While there's no doubt that stars have a commercial impact nowadays, it seems remarkable the drive with which some chefs pursue them. When you think about, it the quality of food in a restaurant won't affect the world it is only dinner. But given that food is something everyone has to consume, I figure you might as well enjoy it as much as you can. I think that's the reason why I do this blog and spend so much time in the kitchen. And whilst I might dream of a food-based career, the pleasure for me come in the eating and making friends and family happy; seeing that smile on their face as they dig into a something I've made for them. I'm not sure I could ever care quite so much about a complete stranger....

2010 Michelin starred restaurants in the UK

Programme information:
Food writer and critic William Sitwell investigates the passions, pressures and obsessions behind that apparently all-important description, 'Michelin-starred chef'. 'It elevates your average stove monkey to superior cheffy status; it puts you in a completely new culinary class. But how relevant is Michelin? Do we want poncey food? Or can you get a Michelin star for a good steak and chips? Is the Michelin Guide harmful in its influence? And does the path to Michelin-starred perfection lead to dangerous obsession?'

In the lead-up to the 2010 Guide's publication, Sitwell goes behind the scenes to hear contrasting views on the Michelin phenomenon, from Raymond Blanc and Marco Pierre White to chefs dreaming of stars and restaurateurs dismissive of them.

He rolls up his sleeves and immerses himself in this extraordinary world, spending a day in the kitchen with Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley hotel, who has two stars and is hoping for that mythical third. He learns just what is involved at this level, from the precise placing of a sliced fresh chestnut on a bed of Dorset crab, to the presentation of today's pre-starter: fish and chip soup. In France, he encounters the big boss of Michelin at their Paris HQ and hears from the widow of the celebrated three-star chef, who was the ultimate perfectionist, a passionate chef who took his own life. And he explores who the strictly anonymous people are who make these apparently vital decisions. A senior British Michelin inspector, interviewed in shadow, confesses to enjoying the anonymity, likening himself to a secret agent, 'licensed to eat'.

Broadcast on: BBC Two, 9:00pm Thursday 11th March 2010
Duration: 60 minutes
Categories: Factual, Food & Drink

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails