Michelin recognition is a boon for Vancouver and its restaurants, but why all the secrecy?

The internationally acclaimed French Michelin Guide came to Canada this year, first visiting Toronto and then acknowledging 60 restaurants in Vancouver, eight of which earned a single Michelin star.

Restaurant owners say it’s a big deal because it puts them on the map as a global culinary destination and creates a buzz among locals, who might be enticed to try something new or visit somewhere they don’t. had never heard of before.

“It shows that whatever we do, we do it well,” said Alberto Mura, general manager of Italian restaurant Carlino, one of the 40 Michelin Guide recommendations in Vancouver.

“I think we’re going to have more business coming up,” he said, adding that he felt he and his staff were more motivated and proud of their work with the new recognition.

But neither Mura nor anyone else outside the Michelin Guide knows the details of the rating system used to rank his restaurant.

According to Alexandra Gill, British Columbia food critic for The Globe and Mail, it’s partly out of necessity.

“The anonymity of the inspectors is its greatest strength,” she said in an interview. “That’s what gives them their legitimacy and their authority because no one knows who they are. No one can buy their votes.”

“But the whole process is shrouded in secrecy, and some of them seem dishonest.”

CBC’s Front Burner reflects on the controversy during Michelin’s visit to Toronto:

front burner23:31The controversial Michelin Guide is coming to Canada

Now, undercover inspectors from France‘s prestigious Michelin Guide are visiting Canada for the first time, to decide if one of Toronto’s restaurants is worthy of a coveted Michelin star. Earning this designation from the de facto gastronomic authority can propel a chef and his restaurant to stardom. But the Michelin Guide has also been plagued with allegations of bias, elitism, straining chefs and ignoring how workers who prepare food are treated. Today, food writers Nancy Matsumoto and Corey Mintz join us to explore what the guide’s arrival in Canada could mean for a struggling industry — and if it matters.

Traditionally, Michelin stars were reserved for expensive fine-dining restaurants — with white tablecloths, Gill says. That seems to be changing, as the guide offers more casual well-done fare, but Gill says it also seems like there are different standards for different cities.

“What’s great about the Vancouver award is that it really reflects what we do best here,” she said, noting the importance of Asian cuisine, casual dining and farm-to-table cuisine in the guide’s selections.

“When you look at it from a global point of view, and you look at the other Michelin guides, it looks a little weird,” she added, wondering if Michelin inspectors use the same review process. in every city they visit.

Michelin stars a double-edged sword, says Top Chef Canada judge

Mijune Pak, a judge on the cooking show Top Chef Canada and host of the Michelin awards in Vancouver, says earning a Michelin star gives restaurants great exposure, but also creates extremely high expectations.

“It’s one of the few prizes where you can lose it,” she said in an interview.

Pak explains that the guide’s anonymous inspectors will eventually return to any restaurant that has earned an award or recommendation and decide if they still deserve that honor.

“There’s so much pressure on it,” she said.

While the threat of losing their Michelin status can be stressful for chefs and their teams, Pak says it’s also a recipe for excellence – setting an international standard for restaurants to strive for.

Alexandra Gill, British Columbia food critic for The Globe and Mail, says the Michelin Guide is “shrouded in secrecy” and needs to be funded by local tourist boards to expand. The guide came to Canada for the first time this year, adding restaurants in Toronto and Vancouver to its recommendations. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Gill says international tourists have long asked him why the city doesn’t have Michelin-starred restaurants, but as the guide expands around the world it needs sponsorship and funding.

Michelin’s arrival in Canada was part of a multi-year funding agreement with tourism boards to help the hospitality industry recover from the pandemic.

“I don’t know how much money was paid, but Destination Vancouver gave a large sum and a commitment for five years,” Gill said, explaining that the process here was separate from Toronto’s.

Destination Vancouver declined several interview requests, but said in an email that it was working with Michelin “on marketing and promotional efforts only.”

In a statement from Michelin North America, Andrew Festa credited the guide’s attention to the quality of the city’s dining scene.

“Destination marketing organizations (convention and visitor bureaus) cover a portion of the costs incurred to establish the Michelin Guide in a new location,” Festa said. “It’s about financing communication, digital and marketing campaigns to promote the selections.”

British Columbia’s Ministry of Tourism told CBC it had no role in the Michelin Guide campaign. Destination Canada said the local is handling everything related to Vancouver’s bid.

A group of eight people stand on a red carpet stage.
Kissa Tanto in Vancouver’s Chinatown has been recognized by the Michelin Guide for chef Joel Watanabe’s blend of Italian and Japanese cuisine (fourth from right). Mijune Pak (far left) says a Michelin star comes with a lot of recognition and pressure to continually meet the guide’s expectations. (Arrthy Thayaparan/CBC)

Gill says tourism marketing boards around the world are paying for the Michelin Guide to come to their cities.

“I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing,” she said. “If you want to have anonymous inspectors and you want them to do a decent job, you have to pay for the meals…their airfare and their hotel.”

She says the buzz around prices has remained and the upcoming tourist season should be big for restaurants in Vancouver. Even as British Columbians face inflation and rising costs of living, she says many restaurants added to the Michelin Guide still have reasonable prices.

“There’s definitely something for everyone on this list,” she said. “The Bib Gourmands are good value for money…and there are some great little restaurants there.”

“Compared to the international standards of Michelin Guide restaurants, they are really accessible.”

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