Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the Michelin Guide was in Singapore for the unveiling of the city’s 2019 edition, The Business Times reports how Michelin is looking to create more transparency around the awarding process.
Poullennec, who took over the position from Michael Ellis a year ago said Michelin wanted “to develop a real dialogue with chefs to explain how it works, to avoid misunderstanding”. Too often, he continued, “when chefs get upset, it’s because they don’t understand or were given the wrong information, so this is something we have to work on.”
Any more information on what the benchmarks chefs are expected to hit would be welcome to those pursuing the accolade, however, Michelin has never been one to reveal its hand. The basis for the process is well known.
“You look at the quality of the product; mastery of the cooking technique; balance of flavour; personality of the chef as expressed on the plate; and consistency” - Poullennec
It’s the finer details of these criteria that can leave many chefs scratching their heads and for this reason, Poullennec plans to create more open dialogue with chefs “where no question is taboo”. While the guide has always been notoriously secretive, Poullennec does acknowledge that “we are talking more than we used to”.
The widely held notion that a Michelin inspector always dines alone with a notebook was dispelled by Poullennec who says the awarding of a star is “always a group decision”, with a restaurant visited three or four times if a restaurant can’t agree. “It can be one, a couple, three, it depends. They dine like normal diners, (pay for their meals) and each visit they may order something different,” he says.
For chefs who feel unjustly ignored or demoted they can find out why. “We can give you feedback about our experience and why you did not get a star. But we will not tell you how to get it.”
So while there is no “secret recipe” when it comes to getting Michelin starred, Poullennec emphasises that they don’t award the stars to the chef, but to the food, and from a customers’ perspective. It all depends on the diner’s experience. Probably the worst thing a chef can do is to chase the star and forget about the customer.
“It’s all about your personality, cooking techniques, your team. Don’t copy (what people have done in the past). Be yourself. Most of the time the highest awards come when the chef and team focus on the client. They forget about the star and just produce an authentic experience. Then as a client, we would be satisfied and we would award a star.”