Why Michelin Expands its Horizon in China with Such Haste?

Following Singapore and Seoul, Le Guide Michelin, which is also known as the Bible of haute cuisine, is to expand its sight in Shanghai, the long-forgotten ancient Eastern civilization. On May 17th, Michelin announced that the publisher is to release its first Shanghai Guide in September or October of 2017. Chinese gourmet industry was thrilled about the news. There are evident signs that Michelin Guide has been claiming its territory in Asia. However, the news of a Shanghai volume came unprecedentedly hurried; unlike the usually cautious it features when expandingto new cities. Many fine dining lovers couldn’t help but wonder whether the Bible also degrade itself for the ordinary.

As of the beginning of 2016, rumors about Michelin’s arrival in Shanghai have never ceased. In mid-May, Michelin officially confirmed the news. They also elaborated on a number of reasons of choosing Shanghai, including the city’s outstanding international status,culinary environment and creativity. Meanwhile, as China’s domestic tourism emerges, Shanghai will naturally benefit from the increased tourists.

As the in-depth Chinese culture was forgotten by the world for way too long, the news that Michelin Guide is coming to Shanghai has stirred a swirl in the culinary industry. Everyone is expecting to share the reputation with other renowned chef worldwide. It’s hoped that more Asian faces can be recognized on the who’s who list of world’s renowned chefs. However, Michelin appeared to arrive with haste.

The launch of Michelin guide was originally intended to boost the sales of its tires, encouraging road trips around France, and that Michelin Guide provides cuisine and hotel recommendations while Green Guide suggest traveling route for its clients.

The Michelin Guide was viewed as the culinary Bible when it was first published in 1900, during the Paris Universal Exposition. In 1926, Michelin started to give stars to restaurants, and it was in 1931 when the company launched their three-starred system. Thoughtout the pastcentury, Michelin Guide has caused overwhelming influence to the gourmet industry worldwide. The loss of a star has dramatic impact on the restaurant,especially on the chef.

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With the emergence of Asian countries,Michelin Guide has been actively expanding its sight in Asian countries withinone decade. In 2007, Tokyo Michelin Guide was released, followed by Hong Kong and Macau volume in 2008. In 2016, Michelin added Singapore version and now Shanghai will be a member along with Seoul volume’s release. There are five Asian guides and a total of 28 guides worldwide.

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Normally, it takes around one year for Michelin to officially publish a guide for one city as the reviewers need time to taste and review each cuisine establishments. This is also the reason that the Guide is so popular. On November 30, 2015, Michelin held a press conference, announcing its upcoming volume for Singapore in the second-half of 2016. Michelin Guide is open for pre-order though the exact release date is unknown. On March 10, 2016, Michelin revealed that it’s going to cover Seoul and the publishing date is set to be the end of 2016.

Singapore’s government is dedicated inpromoting its food culture and tourism. After wrapping up the Asia’s 50 Best reataurants ceremony ,it announced the upcoming release of Michelin Guide.

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Michelin held conference for both Seoul and Singapore’s volume.

But this is what confuses everyone. The publication of Singapore volume took a whole year from the official press conference to the release date of the guide. But not only did Shanghai’s news come out via a short WeChat message without even a press conference, its expected release date is under six months from the announcement. This inevitably makes one wonders will a blink of six months be sufficient for the review? For a crucial market like China, the absence of a proper press conference is peculiarly rushed. Many consider that Michelin Guide has secretly started to review culinary establishments in Shanghai long ago. But the truth is, prior to the commencement of the anonymous visit, Michelin Guide provides official notice, which is known as the procedure justice.

Why is Michelin hurried to Shanghai then?Industry insiders commented that Michelin Guide was actually pressured by the local culinary review competitors and therefore attempts to launch its Shanghai volume. Meanwhile, the lack of competitor in the culinary review industry has given Michelin Guide a position as influential as an edict. The impact it has on the chef and the restaurant was way too dramatic that the industry started to doubt its reliability. This hindered the Guide’s reputation in European and U.S. market and consecutively led to revenue loss in the markets. This could beone of the reasons that Michelin Guide is hustling to expand its territories in Asian market.

But it’s stunned to find Michelin China & Ctrip’s partnership to offer booking service of Parisian restaurants earlier this year posted by through their Wechat platform. Shanghai-based Ctrip is a leading provider of travel services in China.

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However, right after Michilin’s announcement ,Ctrip announced their own restaurant rating system so called”Smilin”(食美林), it’s also based on three-starred system.Somehow,sophisticated fine-dining lovers didn’t pay much attention on it .

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The Michelin Guide is well known for its cautious and rigorous reviews. According to the Guide’s official website, most of the reviewers that work at Michelin own professional hospitality management background and have worked in hospitality industry for at least five to ten years. They dine in restaurant for up to 250 meals and stay in hotels for 160 nights a year. The five review standards, including the quality of ingredients, the skills of meal preparation and the integration of taste,level of creativity, the price-performance ratio of the meal and the consistency of meal preparation.

The inspectors have set out to visit Shanghai-based restaurants as of April while starting to ask for more information and details. The first batch of interviewers will be formed by two people in a group, providing business card to the restaurant for review while inviting the culinary establishments to fill in the detailed tables.

And the inspectors come after.

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business card that was given to a Shanghai-based restaurant.

The arrival of Michelin Guide is much anticipated by everyone in the culinary industry of Shanghai. Even though Michelin Guide launched its Shanghai office back in 2014, it’s doubted that whether Michelin Guide’s Shanghai volume will disappoint many as it rushed topost on WeChat platform that signals upcoming release of Guide within less than six months.

Judged from the haste pace that the official Michelin Guide has adopted, it would not be easy for it to secure aposition in China.

Earlier in 2009, The New Yorker released one article about a lunch with a Michelin inspector, the reporter asked her if she like the dish, she answerd”.

“It’s not really a ‘like’ and a ‘not like,’”she said. “It’s an analysis. You’re eating it and you’re looking for the quality of the products. At this level, they have to be top quality. You’re looking at ‘Was every single element prepared exactly perfectly, technically correct?’ And then you’re looking at the creativity. Did it work? Did the balance of ingredients work? Was there good texture? Did everything come together? Did something overpower something else? Did something not work with something else? The pistachios—everything was perfect.” 

My stars go to the following restaurants in Shanghai:

1. 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana (Two stars)

If compared with Hong Kong headquarter(three stars)s and Macau (one star), the dishes served lately with good consistency /top quality/technique . Its service and the number of its tables are one of the highlights of fine dining; this is one of my favorites in Shanghai.

Michelin has always been stingy in awarding stars to Italian restaurants. Only eight restaurants are awarded three stars in Italy and 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana is the only Hong Kong-based establishment that is rated three-starred restaurant.

Meanwhile, Otto e Mezzo Macau got one star shortly after its launch in less than one year. It’s expected that Shanghai’s Otto e Mezzo will win two stars in the rating.

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The restaurant released the service of Chef’s table for 2 in the kitchen..Executive-chef Riccardo la Perna

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General Manager Leonardo Degl’Innocenti /Sous Chef Marco Xodo

2. UltraViolet by Paul Pairet (Two stars)

If following the original definition of Michelin Guide, a special journey seems reasonable to pay for a three-starred restaurant as UV, but the conservative food guide adds uncertainty as it hurried to the release of Michelin Guide for a Chinese city.

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UltraViolet▽  by Limelight Studio

Dinning at UltraViolet is like enjoying an opera performance, placing yourself in the middle of the theatre. The staff (actors) strive to perfect the show, including intermissions .Surprises brought by the appetizers, the exquisite preparation of fishes, meat and foie gras cooked to a unexpected texture, using vacuum and low-temperature cooking techniques.

Desserts are not so stunning compared to thelast few dishes. The dining experience is filled with surprises, but this couldalso be over acting to some extent. You must pay a visit if you work as a chef.You will be inspired. It’s a dream come true for anyone in the cuisine industry.The service is perfect, and the environment is definitely worth getting five forks.

On the other hand, if BO Innovation Hong Kong is awarded with three stars, shouldn’t UV be receiving something better than two stars?

In my review, UV would be a Benchmark for Michelin Guide Shanghai this year,as everyone is having an eye on its result.The restaurant will unveil its third menu UVC in fall, it’s expected that making reservations would be more difficult.

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3.  Bistro Le Bec. (One star)

Nicolas Le Bec was awarded with two starsback in France. I wanted to throw more stars to the restaurant but the numberof tables and the Bistro style wouldn’t let me. Although this is not a fair comparison, but it’s accustomed that Hong Kong Michelin Guide only gives out one to two stars. But even Hong Kong Dingtaifung was awarded with one star. What is the standard to rate restaurants in a city where the East meets the West?

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Cour des Loges was awarded one Michelin star when Nicolas Le Bec is only 32 years old and Nicolas Le Bec got two stars in 2007.

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Renowned Paris-based Taiwanese gastronomic writer – Hsieh Chung-Tao(谢忠道) mentioned the competition between Gault-Millau and Michelin in early 2000.He also mentioned that the fierce fight between the two influential food guides has become even more intense after Gault-Millau switched its editor team.In 2002, Gault-Millau granted “French Chef of the Year” to the young chef Nicolas Le Bec, who was less than 30 years old while Michelin made no mentioning about his name at all.

This shook the whole French chef society as many considered Gault-Millau has punched Michelin in the face.

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Chef Nicolas Le Bec

The French publisher, however, seems to be biased in rating Italian cuisine. This is partially results from the striking contrast between fine French dishes and the hammer Italian cuisine.

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Therefore, Le Bec’s destiny depends on its definition to Bistro. Similarly, the food of Bocuse in Lyon also follows traditional dishes and presents a hammer sense. But Michelin dares not alter the unshaken three stars.

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Villa Le Bec’s launch was postponed due to the immense popularity of Bistro Le Bec. But you may also book for Menu Chef (over eight people) .

This also stands as a trial to the chef.They are worth higher honor than one Michelin star.

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week some new residents were found in Villa Le Bec.

As for Chinese restaurants I will make no comment as I rarely pay visits , and I am not confident with my rating on it. We do hope to see more Asian faces on the list.

Despite surprised by the news, some chefs told me “even though it’s rushing to Shanghai but it’s finally here.” I could sense their excitements. Nonetheless, diligent work requires recognition of the system.

Rigorous review has always been the essence of Michelin’s value, which means that it’s still the highest honor deep in these chefs’ heart. Awarding of stars is also a second chance for the restaurant to prosper again.

The voting system of the over-commercialized 50 Best Restaurants inevitably attracts doubts. We would not like to see Michelin degrade. Hopefully, it would not damage the century-old reputation.

 

About :

Jocelyn Chen – Founder of TastyTrip, dining lover, foodie jetsetter.

At TastyTrip, We create unique experiences for food lovers who want to see the world a little differently.

 

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