Thursday, February 24, 2005

A Michelin in New York

or, "Giant Puffy White Man Destroys New York Restaurant Scene."

Michelin, besides having a Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man-esque mascot, and making the tires, also trucks in restaurant reviews. Although it is no Elephant Larry, Michelin is literally the most important and powerful name in the history of European restaurants.

Anonymous employees of the Michelin Guide will go to restaurants and hotels throughout Europe, rating them on comfort level and other distinctions. But by far the most important category is the Michelin Star. From the Michelin site:

* One star indicates "a very good restaurant in its category," a good place to stop on your journey.
* Two stars denote "excellent cooking, worth a detour," with specialties and wines of first-class quality.
* Three stars reward "exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey," where diners eat extremely well, sometimes superbly. The wine list features generally outstanding vintages, and the surroundings and service are part of this unique experience, which is priced accordingly.
What this doesn't tell you is how every chef in Europe spends their entire lives trying to get even one star on the Michelin scale.

One star means your restaurant will be reserved out forever. Two stars means that you are a superstar chef, and will have a long career. Three stars means your patrons will orgasm for fifteen hours while consuming your food, and you will be rich and happy for the rest of your life.

People spend literally hundreds of millions of dollars on the decor of their restaurants alone, hoping to attract a coveted Michelin Star. For a really good account of all of this, read "Feeding Frenzy," which discusses the process.

If you ever lose a star (i.e., go from 3 Stars to 2 stars, or, god forbid, 2 stars to 1)... Let's just say that some chefs haven't survived the process. By which I mean, they committed suicide after losing their Michelin Star rating.

So... What does this mean for New York? Well, not much initially, I think. But if Michelin fever grips NYC the way it does ALL OF EUROPE, we're in for bigger and bigger, gaudier and more over the top restaurants all over the City.

As someone who can't afford any of these places, it'll certainly be fun to watch. But I think NYC has a great restaurant scene as it is, and I hope in the invasion of Michelin doesn't change things too much.

...and here's the Press Release.


mjs said...

there is a photo of the michelin man visiting "the gates" in today's amNY. he's carrying an oversized spoon and fork, as if to eat them.