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Interview Fri Jul 23 2010

Interview with Michelin Guide Director Jean-Luc Naret

Jean-Luc Naret.jpgIt was only last week when the Michelin Man came to town announcing the publication of the Michelin Guide Chicago. He brought with him Michelin Guide director Jean-Luc Naret, who I was lucky enough to sit down with and chat up shortly after the gala event.

Why Chicago? Why now?

That is a good, solid question to ask. We first looked at the city a few years ago and knew we wanted to come here because of the great chefs here. We knew that there was very good produce as well, using local ingredients, from Wisconsin, Michigan, everywhere else. There are a very good number of restaurants that deliver high-end cuisine, but at the same time, there are a very good number of restaurants that deliver great food at a very good, reasonable price. And that is exactly what the Michelin guide is all about. It's not only about finding the top chef, it is really about trying to find the best food in category of price and comfort.

And why now? Because personally I think we should have been here a bit before, but finally we came here two years ago and we're ready to announce.

It seems that the Michelin Guide is a mark of excellence, but not necessarily a mark of elitism. Is there a conscious effort to balance that bridge?

Well, it is. If you really look at why people buy our guides -- and we sell more than one million per year across all countries -- people are really buying the guide to find the address to eat. They are buying the guide to find the places to take the girlfriend for the evening, or to take their business partner out. But when they actually invest a very small amount of money in buying the Michelin guide, they know they are not going to have a bad meal anymore. It is like an insurance against a bad meal.

You know what was beautiful is that when we came to New York, people there never thought they would actually get a Michelin star. They never thought that one day there would be a Michelin Guide in their hometown. And what is nice is the welcome that we receive because people know exactly what Michelin is about.

Aside from utilizing local produce like you mentioned, what distinctive qualities or elements of style do you think are particular to Chicago?

Obviously the level of talent and the diversity is very important here. What's nice is that you have so many chefs who have come from different backgrounds and different places -- countries, as well as different parts of the States. It's like a tapestry. You have people who come together and make Chicago very unique.

I think New York is more about the diversity -- culinary, ethnic and everything -- and San Francisco is more about the produce,but here it's more about the restaurant scene. You have great chefs who know how to run great restaurants, and they move from restaurant to restaurant, trying out new concepts. That's really what it is, having so many restaurants at so many different levels of comfort and price. Definitely Chicago and Michelin Guide have a good fit here.

Now, your inspectors are very discreet, but do you have any particular Chicago restaurant favorites?

Ahh, always the one I've been to the night before! I always choose from the guide, even before the guide is out here. Our inspectors have to go to the good ones and the bad ones, in order to select the best.

I appreciated in your speech last night how you noted Chicagoans don't use ketchup on their hot dogs, which leads me to my final question for you. In terms of hot dogs: New York or Chicago?

(Laughs) Well, definitely the one I had at Hot Doug's. If you ask me where the best burger is in New York, I would tell you it's the place inside the Parker Meridien hotel. It's the place where I always go for a good burger, but it's not in the guide, so it's always going to be a well-kept secret. Hot Doug's won't be in the guide, but obviously it's one of the places that I love to go. So it's another best-kept secret.

~*~

Michelin Guide Chicago is due out this November.

mich guide.jpg

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
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