LIFE POWER LIST 2015

Michelin inspectors: Presenting Singapore dining to the world

2) THE MICHELIN INSPECTOR

Singapore's debut Michelin Guide is set to be launched in the second half of next year and, right now, the most powerful people on the food scene are the Michelin inspectors who are assessing the food offerings in Singapore.

The team, said to number 20, will decide which restaurants - and, possibly, hawker stalls - get into the guide.

How many restaurants here will get the top ranking of three stars? Will there even be any three-star restaurants?

A lot is riding on the guide. It makes for a great tourism promotion tool and a Michelin star can catapult a Singapore chef onto the world dining stage.

For any city's debut guide, the inspectors are selected from Michelin's worldwide pool.

Mr Michael Ellis, international director of the Michelin Guides, will not say how many inspectors there are in total.

He would say only that there are "enough to do the job".

However, according to a story published in 2009 in the New Yorker magazine, there are apparently 15 inspectors from France, 10 from the United States and 90 from elsewhere in the world.

Although much has been made about their being anonymous - the New Yorker magazine story says inspectors cannot even tell their parents what their job is - that veil of anonymity may not be very opaque.

Some inspectors dining in Singapore have identified themselves to the restaurants.

Michelin says in its publicity materials that inspectors may introduce themselves and "ask for information, if necessary" after paying the bill.

Still, it would be interesting to see what they pick from Singapore's wide and deep food scene.

On their shoulders - and taste buds - rest the credibility of the guide.

Singapore can only hope they exercise that power responsibly.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 20, 2015, with the headline 'Presenting Singapore dining to the world'. Print Edition | Subscribe