Michelin Guide raced to find star chefs amid pandemic lockdowns

PARIS • The Michelin Guide's restaurant inspectors had a trickier task than usual finding their noteworthy chefs of the year, rushing to get a seat at top tables after coronavirus lockdowns forced eateries to close for extended periods.

Revered as the go-to publication for gastronomy, the Michelin Guide is on track to reveal its top French picks next month, after already releasing some listings elsewhere, including in Spain and Japan, said Mr Gwendal Poullennec, its international director.

"As soon as restaurants reopened, the inspectors were the first on the scene," he said. They had to adapt in some cases, like when a restaurant needed a few days to operate normally, and returned to fully appreciate the offer, he added.

Known for their exacting standards, the Michelin inspectors' choices can be controversial, with some chefs fighting back in the past after losing stars.

Some 3,236 restaurants globally now carry Michelin stars, up from 3,093 at the start of last year.

The number of restaurant reviewers working for the guide is kept secret, although Michelin has disclosed that people from 15 nationalities work as inspectors.

This year, the guide, first published in 1900, wanted to press ahead as a means of paying tribute to one of the industries hardest hit by coronavirus measures worldwide, Mr Poullennec said.

In France, seen by many as the standard-bearer for fine dining, restaurants may reopen only on Jan 20 at the earliest, after being forced to shut since the end of October.

The Michelin Guide has had to innovate, too, and has tried to foment an online following by publishing recipes of chefs.

For the first time this year, it has begun to list recipients of a "green star" - recognising 164 chefs worldwide who emphasise seasonal cooking and use of local suppliers.

The French Michelin stars will be revealed on Jan 18.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2020, with the headline Michelin Guide raced to find star chefs amid pandemic lockdowns. Subscribe