In 2003 Chef Bernard Loiseau – the inspiration for Chef Gusto in Pixar’s Ratatouille – took his life amidst speculation that he was on the verge of losing one of his three Michelin Stars. To many, his signature dish, Ratatouille, is a favorite classic French dish, but to him, it was worth dying over.
The pressure at the top end of the culinary world is enormous, and most of it comes down to a group of food critics who decide the fate of a chef and restaurant’s reputation by awarding what is known as a Michelin Star. Their next stop? Singapore.
But what exactly is a Michelin Star?
Michelin restaurant ratings started back in 1900, when the Michelin brothers (owners of the tire company) published a travel food guide of the best restaurants in France for their customers. In 1936, they started awarding stars with the following criteria: one star = very good, two stars = excellent, and three stars = exceptional.
Since then, Michelin has expanded to over 20 different cities including New York, Hong Kong and Tokyo. The critics are anonymous, harsh and relentless. They have been known to place a spoon on the ground (not drop, because that would be too obvious) and time the service staff to see how long it takes them to notice the missing spoon. This is all just another game in their bag of tricks to determine the rating of the restaurant.
Junior Emily Fisher, who has over 700 followers on her foodie Instagram account, said, “Having Michelin come [to Singapore] will raise the standard of the food and service in the restaurants, which will help the food scene.”
However, the introduction of Michelin Guide has not been received warmly in other Asian countries.
Aun Koh, a local food critic, shares his concerns. “It will be interesting to see how [Michelin goes] about awarding their stars in Singapore. I think they killed themselves by coming to Asia. How can you compare a sushi bar in Tokyo or Din Tai Fung in Hong Kong to other one star Michelin restaurants in Paris or Rome? I think they should stick to the high end restaurants and leave the hawkers alone, but that is just my opinion. We will see how it turns out.”
Ignatius Chan, owner of the critically acclaimed restaurant Iggy’s, saw it differently. “To me, it will not make a difference. Another guide is another opinion, and there are hundreds of them out there. It will not bother me if we get one, two, three or even have no stars. But I think it will help motivate the kitchen staff and the chef, so maybe to them it means more than to me. They are younger and hungry, so it will push them. But for me, it will not make a difference.”
Although many questions have been raised about the arrival of the guide and the impact on the Singapore food scene, nobody will know for sure how Michelin will affect the Singapore until they are actually here. But keep your eye out for a spoon being placed on the ground, because that man just might be your go-to guy for your next meal recommendation.