Go back to basics to regain Michelin stars, says guide director

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Michelin guide great, United kingdom of great britain and ireland, Michelin guide, Michelin

Derek Bulmer, former Michelin editor, introducing the 2011 guide yesterday
Derek Bulmer, former Michelin editor, introducing the 2011 guide yesterday
Restaurants that have been stripped of their Michelin stars – or those that didn’t quite make it into the guide this year – should go back to the basics and refocus on their customers, says the director of the Michelin Guides.

“There’s always a good reason to lose a star. It doesn’t mean that a chef has lost his talent, it just means that sometimes he has lost his focus,” said Jean-Luc Naret at yesterday’s launch of the Michelin Guide Great Britain & Ireland.

The much awaited 2011 guide awarded 14 new stars this year and 26 Bib Gourmands.​ There were ten star deletions and 37 Bib Gourmand deletions.

Refocus

But Derek Bulmer, former editor of the Michelin guide to Great Britain and Ireland, told restaurants that have lost awards this year not to despair.

“It’s not the end of the world. You know what to do because you had a star before. Just go back to the basics and refocus. Quite a lot of restaurants in the past have done that and bounced straight back. So it’s possible to win the star back.”

Speaking to BigHospitality, Naret also explained that chefs may have lost their focus for any number of “personal reasons”. For example, they may be more involved in a TV show than in their customers or the quality or their products.

“Continue to do what you’ve done before, continue to go back to really ensuring that your customers will be happy because among your customers there will be Michelin inspectors,” said Naret.

What do Michelin inspectors look for?

The key things that Michelin inspectors are looking for are:

  • Good food using quality products and prepared with care
  • Clean, well maintained, comfortable premises
  • A warm welcome
  • Friendly and attentive service

“If you don’t have one of those elements, it means the restaurant falls down. Yes, sure, the quality of the food is what it’s all about. But, for example, if the food is good but the premises aren’t clean, we can’t put a restaurant in the guide. So it’s difficult to prioritise the criteria because you need them all,” said Bulmer.

“I used to ask myself – if I can’t recommend this place to a friend, why would I put it in the guide?”

Sourcing and prices

Other key elements on the Michelin radar are the quality of the products and the price of the menu.

“We are always looking for talented chefs, for people who use the right produce. And there is a dimension in the selection of a star – and especially in a Bib Gourmand – called value for money,” said Naret.

“Every time we look at a restaurant we think, well it’s very good, but it’s very expensive too – does it deserve to be recognised with a star?

“Yes that’s one of the key factors that we’re looking into and we find that more restaurants now really try to ensure that they’ve got an affordable menu to start with in order to keep the Bib Gourmand. It shows that people respect that now, and they want to actually play the game and not try to have prices that are through the roof.

“A lot of chefs are actually going back to the roots, and they try to look at the traceability of the produce and to ensure it comes from the region. That’s very interesting because it shows a local cuisine with local produce for local people, which is very good because you get the perfect price.

“That’s important in the time of a recession – people tend to look at the Bib Gourmand as well because that’s very good value for money and people are really looking at where they are spending.

“A few years ago I said that if restaurants were very expensive or the quality was not there, they would either die or reinvent themselves. And some of them have died, while others have reinvented themselves and work very well right now.”

The full list of new and dropped awards in the 2011 Michelin Guide Great Britain & Ireland can be read here.

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