Michelin Guide executive director Jean-Luc Naret invited about three-dozen local journalists to a ballroom at The London to introduce the French tire company’s second L.A. guide. This edition features 310 restaurants, all rated on a zero to three-star scale. Naret explained that Michelin considers a one-star awardee one of the 1500 best restaurants in the world. A two-star restaurant is one of the 230 best restaurants in the world. A three-star restaurant is one of the 69 best restaurants on Earth. Naret said, “A one-star in L.A. should be the same as a one-star in Paris or London.” Michelin recommends even the book’s unstarred restaurants.
Naret said that when he visited Tokyo last year for the launch of the Tokyo guide, 500 journalists and 100 photographers greeted him. They sold 120,000 copies of the Tokyo guide within 24 hours of its release. In the U.S., Michelin hasn’t been able to generate quite the frenzy.
Los Angeles has zero three-star restaurants, whereas New York has four. L.A. was up to four two-star restaurants this year, including Melisse, Spago, Urasawa and Providence (new to the guide).
Michelin representative Eileen Osteen said that it takes a consensus from 8-12 Michelin inspectors to award three stars, whereas it takes only one or two inspectors to list a restaurant with zero stars. She revealed that the majority of the inspectors are pulled from the hospitality industry and that writing ability isn’t the biggest factor in the hiring process. After all, they have editors who can pull the text together.
To stay timely, Michelin has launched michelinguide.com, which updates restaurant closures. They’ve also introduced the Michelin Discovery Program, where anybody can submit 150-word reviews on the website. At the end of the year, the best-received contributor (as judged by Michelin staffers) will be awarded a three-day eating adventure in New York City.
Now to analyze the L.A. guide’s selections:
Any list is bound to include omissions, so those aren’t worth exploring, but there were still some glaring geographical issues.
This year’s L.A. guide features a section devoted to the Eastside, which Michelin strangely characterizes as Arcadia, Alhambra, San Gabriel and Monterey Park. Not many Angelenos can agree upon the Eastside’s amorphous boundaries, but there’s little doubt that those four cities fall within the San Gabriel Valley. Also, how can the “Eastside” not include East Los Angeles or Boyle Heights?
Naret prided the guide on including the San Gabriel Valley, but neglected to mention that Michelin completely ignored the South Bay, a sprawling area that contains several cutting-edge Japanese restaurants and some noteworthy California cuisine.
Apparently South Los Angeles doesn’t warrant inclusion either, even though the area hosts several impressive Mexican restaurants, none better than La Casita Mexicana.