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The Secret Life of a Michelin Inspector... | Great British Food Magazine

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The Secret Life of a Michelin Inspector…

Last week, Michelin unveiled its 2018 guide at a star-studded ceremony in London and added a few more Michelin Stars to its prestigious list including London’s The Araki (three stars), Claude Bosi at Bibendum (two stars) and Bristol’s Paco Tapas (one star).  But how exactly are these stars awarded? And just how does one become a Michelin star inspector? Deputy Editor Kayleigh Rattle caught up with Rebecca Burr, editor of the Michelin Guide Great Britain and Ireland, to find out more.

What makes a ‘Michelin’ restaurant? There’s no formula to being included in the Michelin Guide. Really it’s all about the food on the plate: the quality of the ingredients, how those ingredients are treated, the balance of the flavours and so on. As you move from pubs or restaurants listed in the guide to places with one, two or three Michelin Stars, the standards get higher, the skills in evidence become more honed and more of the chef’s individuality comes across. Consistency of quality is also important. Our inspectors also have to be consistent. They are all experts – they have backgrounds in kitchens and hospitality and Michelin invests a lot of time in them to make sure standards are applied consistently across countries and across food types.

Who reviews the restaurants? Can anyone get involved? Michelin inspectors book anonymously and they pay their own bills. They are experts when they join us and they all have relevant experience in the hospitality industry. But that’s just the start of the story, really. We spend a lot of time training them and making sure that we deliver consistency and objectivity for the people who use our apps and read our guides. Part of this is making sure they get experience in other territories. That means they become expert across different types of cuisines and different cultures. It also means our customers trust us to offer independent, partial advice that is consistent around the world – and I think that’s unique to Michelin. It can be the best job in the world, but it’s hard work and there’s a lot of travel involved – on average an inspector will eat out about 250 times a year, which involves a lot of time away from home.

New restaurants are popping up all of the time, how do you decide which places to visit? Our inspectors live and breathe food, so they are always trying to find those hidden gems that deserve recognition. It’s in their nature, really. They read local newspapers, they monitor social media, they have their own intelligence networks and of course they listen to our customers. We’re very open. Anyone can get in touch with us and tell us about places they think should be in the guide. The @MichelinGuideUK Twitter account is becoming a really effective way for us to engage with people, and a lot of people get in touch with us that way.

What do the different stars represent? One Michelin Star represents high quality cooking that’s worth a stop. Ingredients are top quality and dishes are carefully prepared to a high standard. Two Michelin Stars mean it’s worth a detour to eat here. The personality and talent of the chef and the kitchen team is evident, dishes are expertly crafted, they are refined, inspired and sometimes original. A restaurant with Three Michelin Stars is worth a special journey – and many people will do this across international boundaries. It recognises superlative cooking from a chef at the very top of his or her profession. Ingredients are exemplary and the dishes are elevated to an art form.

New stars: Michelin Guide 2018

What’s new for the Michelin 2018 guide? Any newcomers, surprises or ones to watch? It’s been a really exciting year for a lot of reasons. We’re thrilled that we have another restaurant with three Michelin Stars now. The sushi at The Araki is nothing short of stunning, so it’s well deserved. There are also some really exciting new chefs coming through who are delivering great food in very laid-back settings. Peter Sanchez-Iglesias at Paco Tapas is an example of this – I’d say it was one of my meals of the year, so it was lovely to see their pride in being awarded a Michelin Star. Then there’s The Wild Honey in Lisdoonvarna, which has become the first pub in Ireland to be awarded a Michelin Star. There are a lot of interesting stories this year, so we’re very pleased.

Who are the stars actually awarded to – is it the chef or the restaurant itself? Michelin Stars are awarded to restaurants rather than chefs in recognition of the fact that running a successful business is almost always a team effort. Having said that, we know that head chefs are very often the key driver to raising standards to Michelin Star level – and keeping them there. We always get to hear when a head chef moves on, so we will make sure our inspection schedule includes as many visits as necessary to assess standards at the restaurant with the Star and also at the head chef’s new restaurant.”

What’s the criteria for receiving a Bib Gourmand? We love our Bib Gourmands, and every year they get more and more attention – which is really pleasing and well-deserved. These are the pubs and restaurants that we feel serve really good food at really good value. In the UK that means you would be able to get three courses or a few small plates of high quality food for under £28.

Have you noticed any food trends or industry changes over the last year?  There has certainly been a trend to more casual dining. That has been well-documented and it’s across most countries, not just the UK and Ireland. Michelin has been at the forefront of recognising those shifts – for example highlighting the rise of the pub serving fantastic food.

Find out more about the 2018 guide at travel.michelin.co.uk