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Michelin Guide Thu Oct 29 2015

The 2016 Michelins Are Out; Do You Know What That Means?

Michelin_Man_CH_2016_Cover.jpg Earlier this week, Michelin announced its Chicago star rankings on the tail-end of announcing its Bib Gourmand Awards -- a status that indicates the best value for price (two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less before tax and gratuity). When Parachute and Dusek's didn't make the Bib Gourmand list, both the Tribune and Crain's predicted a star was most likely on the way. They were right; both restaurants joined the starred list, earning one star each. Acadia moved from one star to two, which is impressive considering they had to close for six weeks this summer and lost a large amount of their staff. Among those still retaining their starred status on the list are Alinea, Boka, Blackbird, Everest, Longman & Eagle, Sixteen, Sepia, Spiaggia, NAHA and Tru. A total of 22 stars were awarded down from 24 in 2015 and 26 in 2014. You can see the complete list below.

If you've ever wondered what tires and food have in common, the story goes as follows. In 1900, French tire manufacturer André Michelin and his brother Édouard needed to sell some tires. Seeking to create interest in more cars, and thereby, more tires, they published the then blue Michelin Guide as a travel guide. The restaurant section was apparently a hit so the brothers started recruiting people to anonymously review restaurants for the guide. By the '20s, they were awarding worthy restaurants with one star, and by the '30s, the three star standard was created that still exists today. The review committee is completely anonymous and purports to visit the restaurant throughout the year to judge on five criteria: product quality, preparation and flavors, the chef's personality as revealed through his or her cuisine, value for money, and consistency over time and across the entire menu -- likely one of the reasons why Next hasn't been able to find its way on the list. Three stars = Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey, Two stars = Excellent cuisine, worth a detour, and One star = A very good restaurant in its category -- original designations that are still used today.

But what you may not know is that the infamous French guide didn't make its way to the U.S. until 2005, when the New York Guide was published, and it didn't get here until 2010 after San Francisco, making Chicago the third U.S. city joining the ranks.*

Looking at the numbers, however, New York received 59 one star rankings and San Francisco received 38 compared to Chicago's 17. This is not a new discrepancy, Chicago has always lagged in Michelin honors. Seeing how we're sort of past the new-kid-on-the-block status, my first thought went to the difference being about restaurants per capita. But even with the analysis, Chicago should at least be rolling in the lower 20s in the one-star ranking. Maybe the Guide was limited to how many stars they could give out per city, was my next assumption, but according to a spokesperson, there are no limits to stars given. The Tribune's Phil Vettel wrote a great piece about what the Guide got wrong, including Momotaro and Salero, which I have to agree, as well as a shout-out to the suburbs that even Michelin doesn't want to trek to.

In a recent statement to Reuters, Michael Ellis, the international director of Michelin Guides, said, "Chicago continues to develop its personality. It tends to have a less formal approach with a no-holds-barred attitude among the chefs." Which translates to me like Ellis is telling us to come back for next year's "The Voice" audition once we leave puberty. There definitely are areas where we can up our game, but for the majority, I think we have upped it way past 17 one stars. I asked Michelin if they had any statement they wanted to make about that and I'll update the story if I get one.

Does it All Really Matter?

Depends who you ask, but getting a star as a restaurant still is the industry holy grail of all holy grails.

"For my entire team, it is a time of reflection on what we have done right and what we can strive for in the future to best serve our guests," says Chef Jared Wentworth of first-time winner Dusek's. "The real work starts now in justifying this achievement."

Three Stars -- Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey

Two Stars -- Excellent cuisine, worth a detour
42 Grams

One Star -- A very good restaurant in its category
Dusek's (Board & Beer)
EL Ideas
Longman & Eagle
North Pond

Image courtesy of Michelin Media

*Update: Michelin also published a Las Vegas edition in 2008 and 2009.

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Robbie / October 29, 2015 2:16 PM

Interesting analysis. I think that the fact that NYC has the Wall Street millionaires and San Francisco has the tech millionaires has to explain some of the Michelin descrepancy. Chicago doesn't have anything close to the per capita dining budgets that the other two cities have. Our more blue collar leanings are sort of reflected in the fast food to restaurant ratio number from the Bloomberg link you provided.

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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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