New York chefs hail Michelin's fare comment

25th February 2005, Comments 0 comments

NEW YORK, Feb 25 (AFP) - Long reserved for Europe's top chefs, the legendary Michelin restaurant guide is to award its much-coveted stars to New York's finest restaurateurs.

NEW YORK, Feb 25 (AFP) - Long reserved for Europe's top chefs, the legendary Michelin restaurant guide is to award its much-coveted stars to New York's finest restaurateurs.

To be released in November, the so-called "red guide", will for the first time catalogue and rate 500 restaurants in New York City, the company announced Wednesday.

The publication of a Michelin guide in the US "is a grand event which recognises the quality and the variety of New York restaurants," said Florence Fabricant, food critic for The New York Times.

Since 1923 Michelin's restaurant guides have been the bible for gourmets searching for the best meals in Europe. Its system of awarding and denying one to three stars has equally made or broken the reputations of restaurants.

The guides are published by a subsidiary of the French Michelin tyres group.

According to the company, for five months Michelin has quietly deployed five European reviewers to assess New York restaurants and decide which will receive its highly desired stars.

Working in secret with a strict set of criteria, the reviewers plan to visit a total of 1,200 restaurants to pare down a final list of 500 to be mentioned in the guide. The 500 will be visited anonymously at least once more for dining, after which an inspector will follow up asking to see the kitchen and other operations.

Most eyes will be on who, if anyone, among New York's intensely competitive chefs - many of them French in origin - receives Michelin's highest three-star rating. In its 2004 guide to Paris, only ten of 399 establishments earned three stars, and another 67 took one or two.

"At least one restaurant should receive three stars," said Fabricant. "It is important as an encouragement. There will also be disappointments."

Michelin's arrival is a hot subject on the lips of the city's top chefs.

"When I arrived twenty years ago, nobody paid attention to the United States," said French-born Daniel Boulud, head chef at Daniel.

"Today we are the equal of our European colleagues. And the arrival of Michelin rewards our efforts," he said.

"The guide is extremely powerful, he said. "Even a small restaurant dreams of a mention. If we are in it, it is as if something special arrives at the table."

Boulud confided his own private excitement. "I have never been able to judge myself, to say 'I am a Michelin three-star' or 'one or two star'. I try to be one of the best restaurants in the United States, but I am in New York, far from the French critics."

"It is an additional pressure," he said, smiling.

Eric Ripert, of the respected seafood restaurant Le Bernardin, said he "is not stressed" by Michelin's arrival.

"I am confident in our product, and I hope Michelin appreciates it. Between the newspapers and the guides, we are always being assessed."

But New York's chefs think Michelin has to adapt its ways to the United States.

"We are not in Europe. Every country must be judged by the possibilities to excel," said Boulud.

"We are a very different culture, and we are many cultures, and many of our cultures are not nearly defined as the regions of France," said restaurant consultant Clark Wolf.

"The other challenge is there is less availability of really good ingredients," Wolf added. "We don't grow things here, it has to come from some place else."

Speaking in New York, Edouard Michelin, chairman of the Michelin group, tried to reassure the chefs.

"We want (the guide) to be a recognition, a little stimulation and an encouragement, because running a restaurant is an incredibly hard task, day after day," he said.

The guide's criteria will maintain the same basic criteria: the cooking, flavour, freshness, and creativity of the food. The guide will also include a category for steakhouses, something not listed in Europe.

And in a bow to a special interest of New York diners, Michelin will judge the quality of service in restaurants in addition to the food.


Subject: French News

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