Chefs on Michelin: why it still matters and the problems a star can bring

By Sophie Witts contact

- Last updated on GMT

Michelin Guide chefs discuss is it still relevant

Related tags: Michelin, Heston blumenthal, Michelin guide

The Michelin Guide continues to have a ‘huge’ impact on restaurants despite a lack of clarity about how it awards its stars.

That’s according to a panel of seven industry experts who discussed the relevance of the guide at the latest TMRW Project​ Industry Talks event in London this week (25 September).

Chef Charles Pelletier, whose Hong Kong restaurant Serge et Le Phoque won a star in 2015 and has just opened in London,​ said the awards could be both a blessing and a curse.

He pointed to French chef Sebastian Bras, who last week begged Michelin not to include his restaurant Le Sequet​ in the 2018 guide, as an example of the pressure faced by starred chefs.

“Customers become more demanding,” said Pelletier. “People expect more of you and criticise things when the day before you had a Michelin star no one would have complained. When you have three Michelin stars you are not free to do simple dishes anymore...you don’t have that creativity.”

He added that chefs striving for stars had to consider who they wanted to be judged by.

“We have to remember that we make Michelin, they don't make us,” said Pelletier. “However, on the flipside, we validate these people’s opinions and continue to expect from them.”

Financial boost

The panel agreed that getting in to the guide still had a noticeable impact on business.

“Coming from New Zealand Michelin wasn’t really on my radar,” said Chantelle Nicholson, chef patron at Marcus Wareing’s Tredwells.

“After getting in the guide we did see an almost instant uptake in lunch bookings…but the expectation [of what Michelin wants] is unknown.”

Josh Overington, chef patron at Le Cochon Aveugle in York, added that the awards had a ‘huge influence’ in the north of England.

“I think the other guides follow Michelin, especially in the north,” said Overington. “A restaurant with one star will go up to four AA rosettes and get in the Good Food Guide. It gets you a lot of publicity…that has a big impact on business.”

The power for change

Despite the perceived prestige of being in the guide, Michelin-recognised restaurants are not immune to the wide-spread hospitality staff shortage.

“There is no difference from three to one star restaurants in the challenge in finding people, it’s an industry-wide issue,” said Kiri Palmer, junior assistant manager at Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck,

“Perhaps the difference is the calibre and the drive behind the staff.”

At Overington’s restaurant, his team has gone through 15-20 back and front-of-house staff in the past year.

“I get a lot of young people coming in that don’t have the necessary skills and really struggle,” he said. “You need to manage their expectations, but there is a place in the industry for everybody.”

The chef believes Michelin should use its platform to place a bigger focus on staff outside the kitchen.

“Why is there not a front-of-house award? Michelin has a responsibility to give something back; it could really change the industry that way.”

The panel was hosted by writer Anna Sulan Masing and also included Adam Coghlan (editor of Eater London) Melissa Fergus (The Fat Duck) and Imogen Davis (owner of Nat*ive restaurant).

The new starred restaurants entering the Michelin Guide Great Britain & Ireland 2018 will be announced at a live event on 2 October.

Related topics: Events & Awards

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