For over a century, a French tyre company has been reviewing restaurants and conferring ‘stars’ on those found worthy. The Michelin Star is coveted by restaurateurs the world over as it is a stamp of quality.
And its loss is mourned. Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, in an interview with a British news website, once said, “I started crying when I lost my stars.”
Michelin started reviewing restaurants in France’s countryside to get people to drive more. A single star suggests that a restaurant is worth a visit if travellers are in the vicinity. A second star promises that a detour to visit the restaurant would be rewarding. A third star, rare as it is, is a stamp of absolute quality, and a recommendation that a traveller plan the itinerary with the restaurant as a pit-stop.
BloombergQuint spoke to two Indian master chefs, who have earned the elusive stars and run restaurants in London and San Francisco, to find out what it takes to get the honour and retain it.
“The best part is, one thing common between all of you and us, is that you don’t know what (the) Michelin (star) is,” joked Sriram Aylur, chef and director of operations at Taj 51 Buckingham Gate in London.
Michelin’s reviewers are notoriously anonymous when they visit a restaurant and can visit multiple times before they pass judgement.
Srijith Gopinathan, Executive Chef, Taj Campton Place (San Francisco) They (Michelin reviewers) show up one, or two, or three times in a year, maybe five times, I don’t know. One of the things they look for is probably consistency. Of course, taste of the food followed by consistency when they come every time. And we probably did hit the mark and that’s one of the reasons.
The best thing for a restaurant to do is to be cautious about what they serve, and consistently serve “from the heart”, said Gopinathan, the only Indian chef to hold two Michelin stars.
Sriram Aylur, Chef and Director Operations, Taj 51 Buckingham Gate (London) It’s very hard to say, because they’re not prescriptive about how it is done, but you can easily second guess them by seeing what they are looking for. I think they’re looking at consistency, they’re looking at innovation and if you’re a classical restaurant like ours, for authenticity in terms of taste, flavour and hygiene.
Maintaining the stars, both the chefs say, is simply a matter of consistently hitting the mark.
“I think when you start delivering that consistent experience to that expectation, I think that’s what it’s all about. Here you call it Michelin, in another place that does not have a Michelin, you’d call it Hats, or sometimes you have local guides. Sometimes it is just good foodies who tell you what is good,” said Aylur.