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3 star bias... ?


roosterchef21
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Many non-three-stars serve excellent Bresse chicken, so when I go to Gordon Ramsey, I expect him to outdo them. If he serves me something I could have gotten with more personality and much less money at a neighborhood bistro, I am disappointed.

I hear that a lot. But no one actually pointed me to a bistrot whose roast chicken was in anyway comparable to Passard's or Pacaud's (haven't been to RHR yet).

I assume you are talking about the new GR Trianon restaurant? I was in the new Ramsay place in NY and felt it was worth checking out. GR restaurants have a similar feel to Ducasse places--a certain predictable quality, but hard to fault the quality itself. (This is not a criticism if consistency is the big point.) I tend to prefer places where I am more likely to see flashes of genius, not just workmanlike competence. This is why I love L'Arpege on a great night.

There's no doubt that the restaurant of an actual chef is better than any luxury assembly-line. It's become rare breed these days. Based on that criteria, you would need to take the three stars off many, many places. There would be like, ten in the whole of France max (let me try that game: Roellinger, Bras, Loiseau, Guérard, l'Arnsbourg, l'Ambroisie, l'Arpège, le Louis XV, Pic, Marcon) . (Edited to add Rabaey, because after all, is Switzerland really a country?).

Also your RHR experience sounds thoroughly enjoyable, if not Ambroisie-esque (again, that's too high a standard for most restaurants I know). And I get your point about the parallel between Ducasse and Gordon, but one difference between la Véranda (in Versailles indeed) and any Ducasse place that I know is that it was actually good. And also, there was something personal about the cooking there, not in a show-business sense, but in the sense that there was a given style of cuisine going on.

Edited by julot-les-pinceaux (log)
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Host's Note Hi Folks.

Let's confine the France Forum to restaurants and food in France and use the Japan Forum for discussion of the same there.  Thanks.

In that case, please delete the rest of my posts on this thread, not just the Japan ones, as many of the three stars I discuss in my list are not in France.

Come to think of it, why is a thread on worldwide 3-stars doing in this forum anyway?

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I am not sure where this message should go - so I will write it here. Culinista - I understand what you're saying about Jiro. My understanding when we went to Japan is there were 3 types of higher end restaurants. Some allowed all diners. Some allowed diners who spoke fluent Japanese. And others just allowed people who were Japanese. Needless to say - we never went to any in the third category. I may be a JAP - Jewish American Princess - but that doesn't count :biggrin: . We did go to places in the second category accompanied by friends who were much more fluent in Japanese than my husband. I can understand somewhat the distinction in Japan between the first and second categories - because many places are very small - and the people who work in them can't speak any languages other than Japanese. As an American - I can't understand the distinction between the second and third catgories - it seems foreign and racist to me - but I can't pretend that I will understand thousands of years of Japanese culture after a 3 week visit.

OTOH - the rules in Japan seem simple enough - at least for people like me and my husband who aren't Japanese and who don't speak fluent Japanese. In France - the rules aren't as clear. I have been to a number (albeit a very small number) of restaurants in France where I was welcome to make a reservation - dine - pay a lot of money - and be treated like garbage. Apparently based on the assumption that I am not French - and/or not famous and/or not a friend of the restaurant - and/or stupid about food (or perhaps all of the above). I am not sure. The meal that sticks in my mind the most in this category was one at Lucas Carton many years ago (perhaps because it was very expensive). They didn't think we'd notice if our first course was served before we ordered our wine. We managed to get the meal straightened out about mid-way through - but only after dropping names which got us in contact with "the powers that be" at the restaurant.

Quite frankly - as between the 2 approaches - the Japanese which lets you know you're not welcome at all - or the occasional French approach - which seems to welcome you but then treats you shabbily - I'll take the former. As for dining times - I noticed in Japan that many meals - even in higher end places - can be really short by western standards (hour or so) - although we didn't have any problems if we hooked up with people at sushi/tempura/etc. bars and wound up talking past a seemly Japanese dining time. In France - and other western countries - including the US - we have sometimes gotten what is called here "the bum's rush" (everything served too fast). Which to me is a sign of disrespect for a diner (although I wouldn't read fairly fast service that way in Japan - because it seems to be the norm for everyone).

Anyway - just my 2 cents about my perceptions of cultural differences from someone who really doesn't know a huge amount about either culture. Robyn

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Host's Note Hi Folks.

Let's confine the France Forum to restaurants and food in France and use the Japan Forum for discussion of the same there.  Thanks.

In that case, please delete the rest of my posts on this thread, not just the Japan ones, as many of the three stars I discuss in my list are not in France.

Come to think of it, why is a thread on worldwide 3-stars doing in this forum anyway?

Don't complain about the thread... It had an original intent on what people thought were the "great" and "not so great" three stars and has ended up as something else. Also there is no general Europe forum and since most 3 stars are in France it made sense to put it here. I mean we could say about the World's 50 best thread in the UK & Ireland forum and I'm sure there are plenty of others.

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Host's Note Hi Folks.

Let's confine the France Forum to restaurants and food in France and use the Japan Forum for discussion of the same there.  Thanks.

In that case, please delete the rest of my posts on this thread, not just the Japan ones, as many of the three stars I discuss in my list are not in France.

Come to think of it, why is a thread on worldwide 3-stars doing in this forum anyway?

Don't complain about the thread... It had an original intent on what people thought were the "great" and "not so great" three stars and has ended up as something else. Also there is no general Europe forum and since most 3 stars are in France it made sense to put it here. I mean we could say about the World's 50 best thread in the UK & Ireland forum and I'm sure there are plenty of others.

Thanks Rooster, I think that's correct.

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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Host's Note Hi Folks.

Let's confine the France Forum to restaurants and food in France and use the Japan Forum for discussion of the same there.  Thanks.

In that case, please delete the rest of my posts on this thread, not just the Japan ones, as many of the three stars I discuss in my list are not in France.

Come to think of it, why is a thread on worldwide 3-stars doing in this forum anyway?

Don't complain about the thread... It had an original intent on what people thought were the "great" and "not so great" three stars and has ended up as something else. Also there is no general Europe forum and since most 3 stars are in France it made sense to put it here. I mean we could say about the World's 50 best thread in the UK & Ireland forum and I'm sure there are plenty of others.

I was not complaining about the thread. I was talking about the moderator's decision, which he has since rescinded, to remove some posts and place them elsewhere. As we both point out, it is a topic that covers the world and happened to be posted in the France forum. I posted several quite long responses to your question about the relative merits of three stars--many of which are outside of France. For some reason, the Japanese ones were singled out as off topic and moved. Discussions of UK, Spanish, and Italian three-stars were allowed to remain. (As I said, this decision has been reversed.)

As you say, the thread changed into something else besides comparing three-stars, and I apologize for my part in that. I will point out in my defense that I was merely responding to other posters' specific questions. I am sorry if I bothered anyone, and I'm also sorry I bothered.

I have asked the mod to delete all of my posts here since I can no longer do it myself.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hmm, intersting thread. Here's my twopence...

I loved these places.

Pierre Gagnaire (my favourite)

Michel Bras

Arzak

Akelare

Ledoyen

Fat Duck

L'Ambroisie

Le Meurice

Michel Trama

Guy Savoy

and, sigh, Gordon Ramsay - admittedly it was was couple of weeks after he got his 3rd star but it was an electric & memorable experience

el Bulli was superb - but I ate in the Seville "branch" so probably doesn't count here. But, if you can't get into Roses place I whole heartedly recommed Seville.

Borderline 3 star

L'Arpege (felt ripped off)

Les Pres d’Eugine (just a dull meal, bt very god quality)

Definitely not:

ADNY

Waterside Inn

Le Cinq

Jean-Georges

Can Fabes

Le Grand Vefour – terrible food but a great room

Taillevent

Berasategui – so bad, in fact, it shouldn’t even be listed as a restaurant

If we’re going after two stars – the following are definitely not worthy:

Auberge de I’lle

Alain Chapel

Duomo (Ragusa)

Midsummer House, Cambridge

Pied a Terre, London

Patrick Guilhaud, Dublin

Jacques Maxim Table d’Amis – possible the worst restaurant I’ve ever eaten in - even took the crown of Berasategui & that’s saying something

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  • 6 months later...
roosterchef21 - One thing to keep in mind when comparing the experiences of different people is when they dined at a particular place.  I had a meal at Grand Vefour over 20 years ago that was one of the best in my life.  Then it lost its 3rd star - gained it back - and now apparently is on its way down again.  Places can change a lot in a couple of years - much less 5 or 10 or 20. My general rule of thumb in terms of picking higher end restaurants is to try to find chefs who are at the top of their game - or rising.  I try to avoid restaurants I should have gone to 5+ years ago but didn't with some exceptions based on personal reasons.  E.g., I didn't get to Chez Panisse (the cafe) for the first time until a couple of years ago - but I wanted to go because it is the "mothership" of California cuisine.  I thought it was still really good.  And I want to go to Senderens in Paris this trip because I have been to both of his earlier restaurants - and want to see how we both have aged.  Whatever - as long as *you* know why you're going to a place - or a type of place - you don't have to justify yourself - as least not as far as I'm concerned.

Rather than starting a new thread and just as an aside, which chefs do you think are at the top of their game and who do you think is only just hanging on? Anyone else have an opinion?

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I'm not sure if this forum is the place for this comment, but I offer it as an aside. Perhaps it's heresy. I have a very jaundiced eye of the Michelin ratings. My perception is that they have and do directly or indirectly cause untold woe to some of France's great chefs--including near bankruptcy and even suicide. And, that the ratings are at least partly a racket. How else to explain that the moment Joel Rebuchon opens a new restaurant in what in my eyes amounts to a chain, it already has a star or even two? Some of these JR addresses are simply and absolutely mediocre, and some are just correcte in the French sense of the word.

But back to my first premise. There is a very dark backstory to the Michelin ratings. I learned about it when researching how Marc Meneau, one of my favorite chefs and a true intellectual of cuisine, could be threatened with bankruptcy. I read an interview with Meneau where he described the life-and-death power of those stars over the success of his restaurant--a "destination" address in St-Père-sous-Vézelay. He and his wife wept wept when they lost a star (because they knew what it meant) as if they had lost a child. Once a year, starred chefs are expected to make a pilgrimage to Michelin headquarters to basically kowtow and ask the Masters how they could improve. Meneau couldn't bear to go; his wife went.

The Michelin treadmill pushes chefs--many of whom aren't good businessmen anyway--to invest more and more money in an endless effort to be up to Michelin's snuff. Meneau almost disappeared in bankruptcy. He squeaked by in a court-ordered restructuring which has entirely emasculated his restaurant. Sadly, I can no longer recommend it. The prices are higher than before the restructuring, The glorious ingredients have vanished. Mme Meneau is no longer en salle and the time-honored staff--with the exception of the car valet--have been replaced by eastern Europeans. A sharp-nosed, thin-lipped court-appointed surveillance woman stalks around with a notebook, making everyone feel miserable and interrogating the customers KGB-style, before driving off in her immense BMW. From within his straight-jacket, Marc Meneau is going through the motions with as much dignity as he can muster in such a situation--which is surely sheer misery. Personally I don't see how the restaurant can survive in its diminished state.

For Bernard Loiseau, our other Burgundy luminary, the misery was simply too much. He blew his brains out, and the world lost not only a great chef, but a warm and wonderful human being.

A week or two ago, Roellinger "gave back" (read "renounced") his three stars. Senderens got off the treadmill long ago. I hope it's a continuing trend, because I consider these chefs part of our world patrimony, and I don't want to lose them to the tyranny of Michelin.

bwilde, gardening and cooking my way through France at L'Atelier Vert

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That sole with noodles looks a little, shall we say, anatomical?

OK, dear friends, let me jump in here. I totally agree with Julot -- Bocuse is an outstanding restaurant to me in the sense that it is hosted by the only still active chef who came from the Fernand Point school. Alain Chapel, Raymond Thuilier, Pierre Gaertner and Francois Bise are all dead, Louis Outhier and Pierre Troisgros are retired. Bocuse nowadays is the only link we still have to the greatest French gastronomy of the 20th century.

I have been visiting his restaurant on a yearly basis throughout the past decade and found nothing less than consistency and perfection, both in service and on the plate. The great man himself was there to greet me every single time, and I got the feeling that the quality I experienced was directly linked to his presence. Yes, some of his marketing strategies are ridiculous, yes, the wine list could be better for this type of place, yes, the decor has seen better days. But I tremendously enjoy everything I get there, it's best ingredients, classic preparations and the best silver service imaginable under the magnificent Maitre d', Francois Pipala. My last visit is only four weeks ago and here is what I had:

Duck meat dodine à l’ancienne, stuffed with foie gras and pistachios

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Filet of sole with noodles, à la Fernand Point

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Beaujolais winemaker’s sherbet

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Whole spit-roasted pigeon

gallery_42455_5893_65541.jpg

Fromage blanc (unfermented cottage cheese) with double cream

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Crepe as a pre-dessert

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Traditional baba au rum with vanilla ice cream

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And a view of the kitchen with the immaculate copper pans ...

gallery_42455_5893_50165.jpg

As you can tell by my list, I am not against innovative cooking. In fact, tomorrow I'm off to Arzak, Berasategui and Akelare. But whoever has a sense of tradition, should go to Bocuse as long as the great master can still stumble his "Bienvenue".

Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like Absinthe, muddles it." ALFRED JARRY

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I'm not sure if this forum is the place for this comment, but I offer it as an aside. Perhaps it's heresy.  I have a very jaundiced eye of the Michelin ratings.  My perception is that they have and do directly or indirectly cause untold woe to some of France's great chefs--including near bankruptcy and even suicide.  And, that the ratings are at least partly a racket.  How else to explain that the moment Joel Rebuchon opens a new restaurant in what in my eyes amounts to a chain, it already has a star or even two?  Some of these JR addresses are simply and absolutely mediocre, and some are just correcte in the French sense of the word.

But back to my first premise.  There is a very dark backstory to the Michelin ratings.  I learned about it when researching how Marc Meneau, one of my favorite chefs and a true intellectual of cuisine, could be threatened with bankruptcy... 

I am not sure I buy this story. I happen to have dined at L'Esperance shortly after it had been awarded its third star for the first time - a very long time ago (when I made my reservation - it had 2 stars). It was a very solid 2 star - although I'm not sure it deserved the 3rd star (I'd say it was a close call). And it was a pretty modest place even after the 3rd star had been awarded. Nothing very fancy. Almost no English/other languages spoken. The "rooms" that went with the restaurant were - shall we say - spartan. Funny - the thing I remember most about our stay was breakfast. Best prunes I have ever had in my whole life.

Overall - I wouldn't be (and wasn't) surprised that the restaurant lost the 3rd star - which was a marginal 3rd star IMO. You have to remember that about this time - Robuchon was doing his thing at Jamin - no chains. Senderens was doing L'Archestrate. Etc. Stiff competition. Doesn't mean diners shouldn't have gone to L'Esperance whether it had 3 stars or 2 or 1 or none. It was an excellent place to dine in a geographical area where it was one of the best (if not the best). I was always more inclined to put it in the category of places like the Hotel de France in Auch when Andre Daguin was the chef. Amazingly solid 2 star - with little or no possibilities for 3. Still - worth a detour and an overnight trip IMO.

Perhaps the fault lies not in Michelin - but in diners. I used to enjoy going around France to try well-regarded 1 and 2 star restaurants. Knife and fork restaurants too. I was young - and all of it was new to me. Today - many "foodies"- even those in their 20's - wouldn't think of doing anything less than a grand tour of 3 stars only. Just to put notches on their belts and get ammo for their food blogs. So - if it isn't 3 stars - it isn't on their radar screens. And some people who run really good restaurants in out-of-the-way places do whatever they think is necessary to get/retain 3 stars - even if their attempts are misguided.

Perhaps restaurants are responding more to diners than to Michelin. So maybe - to paraphrase Shakespeare - "The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves...”.

FWIW - I do think Michelin has its faults. Its primary one IMO is being too slow to pull the trigger in terms of taking away stars from famous restaurants which used to be great - but haven't been for years. Robyn

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Rather than starting a new thread and just as an aside, which chefs do you think are at the top of their game and who do you think is only just hanging on? Anyone else have an opinion?

Since this is the France forum - I will restrict myself to our trip to Paris last month - our first in almost 20 years. We dined only at restaurants we had never dined at before (in some instances at least not in their current reincarnations). We had meals at 2 Michelin 3 star restaurants. I can say that Guy Savoy is probably still at the top of his game. Our best meal in Paris - and hard to imagine he could do better. I'm not sure whether L'Ambroisie was at the top of its game. If what we had was it - it is either over the hill - or the 3 stars never made sense. Or perhaps it is - like Julot has mentioned elsewhere - a private club where - if you are not a member - you will never know what it has to offer. OTOH - by way of contrast - we were the only non-regulars in our room when we dined at Guy Savoy - and were made to feel immediately like "members of the club". Very similar to the meal/service we got at Gordon Ramsay RHR when we dined there in 2004. Brilliant.

Briffard at the George V was a really good meal. But certainly not more than 2 stars. We dined there at perhaps an unfortunate time. I don't think the transition between Briffard and his predecessor was complete. I have to note though that the service was extraordinary. I'd have to try this place again when the transition between chefs was complete to say anything definitive. Another 2 star was Senderens. This was my second favorite place after Guy Savoy. We had dessert there one night with Julot and wife after dining elsewhere - and a complete meal another night. Really yummy food. I have read a lot about how Senderens has taken his classical 3 star dishes from Lucas Carton (some of which probably came from L'Archestrate) and tried to make them more affordable. IMO (we had dined at both L'Archestrate and Lucas Carton) - his efforts are a great success. Perhaps the most educated of palates can tell the difference between the dishes made with the ridiculously expensive ingredients - and those made with with the lesser ingredients (at 1/3 the cost) - but I can't. IMO - Senderens is still at the top of his game - but he is playing a different game now than he was playing 20 years ago. Senderens has so many moves - maybe he should be a contestant on "Dancing With the Stars" :smile: . Robyn

Edited by robyn (log)
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Perhaps the fault lies not in Michelin - but in diners. I used to enjoy going around France to try well-regarded 1 and 2 star restaurants. Knife and fork restaurants too. I was young - and all of it was new to me. Today - many "foodies"- even those in their 20's - wouldn't think of doing anything less than a grand tour of 3 stars only. Just to put notches on their belts and get ammo for their food blogs. So - if it isn't 3 stars - it isn't on their radar screens. And some people who run really good restaurants in out-of-the-way places do whatever they think is necessary to get/retain 3 stars - even if their attempts are misguided.

It's so disappointing. I'm 25 and I have noticed a lot of my chef friends around my age or younger only want to eat at *** Michelin star restaurants. They seem to think that these restaurants are the be all and end all of food. Look, sometimes it's nice to take the Ferrari for a drive but there is always room for the Volvo. I LOVE restaurants that are true to themselves and serve beautiful simple food. They don't aim to be a starred restaurants and don't claim to be. It's just good honest food in a friendly atmosphere. And more than anything else I love up and coming places.

I think the problem with the Michelin Guide is that there is no competition. By that I mean that the average tourist/average joe/beginner foodie haven't heard of the Gambero Rosso or Gault Millau etc etc. Take a look in shops. There is about 10 copies of the Michelin Guide to 1 of each of the above. That means that the "average tourist/average joe/beginner foodie" goes "ok, this guide must be the best because there is so many of them, I will buy it and then I will base my decision on that".

Another problem is the fact it has been around for so long. It's had the time to build a customer base. Which is not a bad thing but guides are quite expensive - a loyal customer to Michelin isn't going to swap to another guide anytime soon quite simply because it is an untried guide.

The Michelin guide IS a good guide. It just has some little issues it needs to work on. It needs to learn to take away stars quickly rather than giving them quickly. It makes the guide inaccurate if a place has 1, 2 or 3 stars when it quite clearly is not a 1, 2 or 3 star place. Especially since a star (or two or three) means that they can charge you extra, its not exactly a mistake that the average punter can afford to take. I can understand that some chef's (Bocuse, Blanc etc) have been so influential for chef's in the past that they want to reward them. But if it's not up to scratch it's not up to scratch. Maybe they should give yellow (or purple, pink, blue, black whatever) stars to reward these chef's. You know, three yellow stars to bocuse, blanc etc as an honorary three star place. In that way, the guide can move on from the past without forgetting the past... The average joe can then look at the guide and say "Hey, (insert restaurant name here) is a three star place for what it's done in the past but it's not a three star place for what it is doing now.

Just a thought.

Edited by roosterchef21 (log)
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Just a remark. Though I am usually the first to deplore the negative (and, IMO, counterproductive) aspects of Michelin and their influence, I still believe it has its value as a guide and I'd be careful not to pile up too much sins on their backs. They have flaws, they are not to be denied but Michelin is not responsible for everything that goes wrong in the restaurant scene. Care should be taken when lending them any responsibility for desperate gestures like Loiseau's, which was the result of a complex set of circumstances and in that case I believe Michelin had no direct influence. There is enough to criticize in Michelin to avoid jumping to conclusions so hastily.

For one thing, when it comes to media power and the way it influences chefs' fate, Michelin is very far from being the only example that can be given. Its rather formidable presence may well be a screen hiding more inconspicuous, seemingly harmless but distinctly more influential and nocive figures. Again, this is a complex issue.

Re-edit: Roosterchef I agree with you. But then again, although frankly I think choosing to visit only three-stars is downright silly and unprofessional - especially for people wanting to appear as 'foodies' -, Michelin is not directly to blame for that. I'd rather blame la bêtise humaine. Just like people rushing to purchase and read novels that just got a literary prize and will not dare to touch other books. I know some.

(Edited for correct writing, dammit girl!)

Edited by Ptipois (log)
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Just a remark. Though I am usually the first to deplore the negative (and, IMO, counterproductive) aspects of Michelin and their influence, I still believe it has its value as a guide and I'd be careful not to pile up too much sins on their backs. They have flaws, they are not to be denied but Michelin is not responsible for everything that goes wrong in the restaurant scene. Care should be taken when lending them any responsibility for desperate gestures like Loiseau's, which was the result of a complex set of circumstances and in that case I believe Michelin had no direct influence. There is enough to criticize in Michelin to avoid jumping to conclusions so hastily.

For one thing, when it comes to media power and the way it influences chefs' fate, Michelin is very far from being the only example that can be given. Its rather formidable presence may well be a screen hiding more inconspicuous, seemingly harmless but distinctly more influential and nocive figures. Again, this is a complex issue.

Re-edit: Roosterchef I agree with you. But then again, although frankly I think choosing to visit only three-stars is downright silly and unprofessional  - especially for people wanting to appear as 'foodies' -, Michelin is not directly to blame for that. I'd rather blame la bêtise humaine. Just like people rushing to purchase and read novels that just got a literary prize and will not dare to touch other books. I know some.

(Edited for correct writing, dammit girl!)

There will always be many camps when it comes to Michelin and I know I am in the vast (ly small) minority. Nevertheless. I persist in my opinion that at good part of the responsibilty for the financial failure and the stress accompanying it of any 3-star restaurant lies at the door of the Michelin structure. Its exigencies drive chefs to constantly outdo themselves and others, and this comes at a price. Unfortunately, the striving has to include not only cuisine, but decoration, personnel, dishes, silver, le tout, quoi. Many of our 3-starred chefs came from poor backgrounds. Couple this to the fact that the French are culturally conservative spenders, and I don't think these chefs would be going into such deep hock without considerable pressure to do so. If you doubt that Michelin exerts that pressure--directly or indirectly is a matter of semantics, talk to the chefs! Personally, I'm there for superlative cooking and warm-hearted service. To me, that is what makes a restaurant 3-star--in my heart. I couldn't care less about the quality of the silverware. (I do care about the decoration and especially the paintings, but sadly, money isn't the answer to the need for good taste.) If the 3-star chefs could afford to spend less on keeping up appearances, more of us could afford to eat at their restaurants more often! Robyn, the rooms at the main Esperance building are relatively spartan, making them affordable for those who wish to treat themselves to the restaurant without having to worry about driving to a more affordable bed afterward. I suggest if there is ever a next time, you take a room in the Moulin across the street, also part of Esperance. There I stayed in the warmest, most beautiful room I've ever had in France.

As for using Michelin as a sort of Bible, that is absurd. Eating at 3-star restaurants isn't necessarily at all an indication of a person with a passion for good food. The only thing it definitely indicates is deep pockets. I think having a good "nose" and gut sense and being able to ferret out good restaurants--and make your own judgments!--is much more important. Many great restaurants exist who for one reason or another have chosen not to be michelinized. Some of them offer only one or two menus, but prepare those items superbly, at a much more reasonable price. Why? They are able to use the best ingredients, because their risk of loss is much lower. As Marc Meneau said, what do I do with the rest of that 6-kilo turbo when only one person orders turbot en croute (perhaps his signature dish) ? Needless to say, that item has now disappeared from the menu. Bonne soirée , All!

bwilde, gardening and cooking my way through France at L'Atelier Vert

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Nevertheless. I persist in my opinion that at good part of the responsibilty for the financial failure and the stress accompanying it of any 3-star restaurant lies at the door of the Michelin structure.

Hm, sure it does, in a tautological way, if you allow me. It makes sense that the financial stress caused by the three-stars status is definitely of Michelin origin, since the situation itself is created by the three stars, hence by the Michelin. This is thinking in a circle.

Now chefs who have three stars also benefit greatly from them (even if the financial constraints of a three-star restaurant are extremely demanding, often perilous), and many of them crave that distinction and play the game according to the (Michelin-set, okay) rules. Some are too fragile for that game but then they should not play it in the first place and this calls for a quality called wisdom. Others couldn't care less and intentionally avoid playing that game. You don't have to do it if you don't want to. In that light, you can't eat your cake and keep it too, i.e. benefit from the Michelin stars as long as you're winning in that game, and then cry out loud what a calamity they are when the game no longer benefits you and you discover the darker side of it. Nobody ever accepted three stars under threat, at gunpoint. The idea is that it's generally a win-win deal, which sometimes goes wrong. There's a price to pay, which may be a cynical reality but it was written all over it from the start. When the Pourcels lost their third star, they told the press that they didn't care, they weren't making their benefits on the three stars anyway. Thus alluding to the many restaurants they had opened all over the world. But what made that situation possible in the first place, if not the fact that they had the three stars to lean on?

If you doubt that Michelin exerts that pressure--directly or indirectly is a matter of semantics, talk to the chefs!

I do know about that pressure but if you read me carefully you know what I think of it. I think Michelin is only as powerful as chefs make it. I do talk to a lot of chefs as a matter of fact, and I get as many opinions as there are chefs. The thoughts I'm posting here do reflect my experience and I cannot say the picture is really clear-cut. In my opinion it all boils down to each chef's priorities. Is he or she potentially a victim of Michelin pressure, is his or her back strong enough to resist that pressure or kick it away altogether, what is precisely the chef's attitude towards the ups and downs, advantages and inconveniences of the Michelin system? They do not all speak with one voice.

Besides, reminding that Loiseau did not die directly from Michelin pressure but from a collection of other factors is not equivalent to denying the existence of Michelin pressure.

Edited by Ptipois (log)
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Ptipos makes very good points. I would add one other. If Michelin did not exist then some other guide would take its place.

I find that Michelin isn't perfect but it serves its purpose. I tend to triangulate my restaurant choices with Michelin and lots of other sources. However I find Michelin usually proves quite reliable as a benchmark, with other sources of information adding colour and helping me narrow a choice to one that meets my tastes.

It is not perfect, but neither are other guides, and nor would a substitute be if Michelin ceased to exist. I also suspect that any substitute would also be blamed by some chefs for their demise. It's not Michelin it is simply the challenge of running a business.

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It's so disappointing. I'm 25 and I have noticed a lot of my chef friends around my age or younger only want to eat at *** Michelin star restaurants.

How do I get a job as a Chef? It obviously pays far more than my chosen career.

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FWIW - I might have mentioned here or in another thread that I found the current format of the Michelin Guide to Paris (which has dozens of listings) much less useful than the old format (which had hundreds). I liked Zagat's a lot better in terms of finding places to eat (mostly lunch) when we were out and about sightseeing and didn't have reservations. Simply because it had a lot more listings.

Barbara W - I didn't mind the spartan rooms at L'Esperance. I mentioned them only to indicate that they weren't quite what one would expect in a 3 star place - at least not these days. Of course - back then - a lot of high end restaurants with rooms had somewhat strange rooms. Our room at Troisgros was a hoot. Think slightly run down 1970's Playboy style in purple. The room even had a spiral staircase - not a great feature after a night when one has had perhaps a bit too much wine.

BTW - one of the problems with Michelin and 2-3 star restaurants these days is wine. I don't know how much emphasis Michelin puts on wine - but wine is certainly part of its equation. Great restaurants in the past had been around for a long time - accumulating wine at fairly reasonable prices over the course of many years/decades - and winding up with great cellars. It is almost impossible to put together such a cellar today without spending a large fortune (I seem to recall that was one of the problems Loiseau ran into - going heavily into debt to put together a "3 star" wine cellar). Prices of even the nicest dishes and flatware are peanuts compared to the cost of a wine cellar. Since I don't drink wine - except for champagne once in a while - perhaps some of the Michelin "stress" problems could be solved by rating food and wine separately. Robyn

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Perhaps the fault lies not in Michelin - but in diners.  I used to enjoy going around France to try well-regarded 1 and 2 star restaurants.  Knife and fork restaurants too.  I was young - and all of it was new to me.  Today - many "foodies"- even those in their 20's - wouldn't think of doing anything less than a grand tour of 3 stars only.  Just to put notches on their belts and get ammo for their food blogs.  So - if it isn't 3 stars - it isn't on their radar screens.  And some people who run really good restaurants in out-of-the-way places do whatever they think is necessary to get/retain 3 stars - even if their attempts are misguided.

It's so disappointing. I'm 25 and I have noticed a lot of my chef friends around my age or younger only want to eat at *** Michelin star restaurants. They seem to think that these restaurants are the be all and end all of food...

Thank you for confirming my very informal unscientific observations. Like others - I don't know where the money is coming from. Not that young people shouldn't have really fine meals once in a while. We started eating at very high end places in our late 20's. But - even when we were in France - they were special occasions. And the prices were a lot different then (dinner for 2 with modest wine at a 3 star place in France outside Paris might cost $150 or so - the recessionary years of the 70's and early 80's were good for something). But money has never been a major consideration when we travel - the most limiting factor then and now has been our inability to eat large rich meals on a regular basis. Kind of like trying to eat Thanksgiving dinner 5 days in a row - but worse. Robyn

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  • 2 weeks later...

Perhaps the fault lies not in Michelin - but in diners.  I used to enjoy going around France to try well-regarded 1 and 2 star restaurants.  Knife and fork restaurants too.  I was young - and all of it was new to me.  Today - many "foodies"- even those in their 20's - wouldn't think of doing anything less than a grand tour of 3 stars only.  Just to put notches on their belts and get ammo for their food blogs.  So - if it isn't 3 stars - it isn't on their radar screens.  And some people who run really good restaurants in out-of-the-way places do whatever they think is necessary to get/retain 3 stars - even if their attempts are misguided.

It's so disappointing. I'm 25 and I have noticed a lot of my chef friends around my age or younger only want to eat at *** Michelin star restaurants. They seem to think that these restaurants are the be all and end all of food...

Thank you for confirming my very informal unscientific observations. Like others - I don't know where the money is coming from. Not that young people shouldn't have really fine meals once in a while. We started eating at very high end places in our late 20's. But - even when we were in France - they were special occasions. And the prices were a lot different then (dinner for 2 with modest wine at a 3 star place in France outside Paris might cost $150 or so - the recessionary years of the 70's and early 80's were good for something). But money has never been a major consideration when we travel - the most limiting factor then and now has been our inability to eat large rich meals on a regular basis. Kind of like trying to eat Thanksgiving dinner 5 days in a row - but worse. Robyn

Do you think this is why some (not all) restaurants are serving "lighter" food? By that I mean more use of vegetables, raw fish & meat, vinaigrette/oil based sauces etc. To get repeat customers in the one week... Or do you think it's just the thing to do atm?

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Do you think this is why some (not all) restaurants are serving "lighter" food? By that I mean more use of vegetables, raw fish & meat, vinaigrette/oil based sauces etc. To get repeat customers in the one week... Or do you think it's just the thing to do atm?

I don't know - although Julot speculated a while back that this is one reason for the lighter food served in some places. FWIW - to me - lighter doesn't necessarily mean just the kind of foods you mention - but smaller quantities (of just about anything). My husband and I had room service for dinner in Paris a couple of times - where it's easy to order one main - maybe one starter - and split everything. Without guilt (we wouldn't do that at a restaurant). Robyn

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Do you think this is why some (not all) restaurants are serving "lighter" food? By that I mean more use of vegetables, raw fish & meat, vinaigrette/oil based sauces etc. To get repeat customers in the one week... Or do you think it's just the thing to do atm?

I don't know - although Julot speculated a while back that this is one reason for the lighter food served in some places. FWIW - to me - lighter doesn't necessarily mean just the kind of foods you mention - but smaller quantities (of just about anything). My husband and I had room service for dinner in Paris a couple of times - where it's easy to order one main - maybe one starter - and split everything. Without guilt (we wouldn't do that at a restaurant). Robyn

I should have mentioned less in my original statement! Sorry! LOL! :biggrin:

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