The gospel of a Michelin fine-dining restaurant to launch in Canada with a guide to Toronto

The gospel of a Michelin fine-dining restaurant to launch in Canada with a guide to Toronto

Chefs attend the Michelin Star Awards for Excellence in the Michelin Directory Germany Awards Ceremony, on February 26, 2019, in Berlin.Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images

The Michelin Guide, widely considered the authority on fine restaurants around the world, is being launched in Canada for the first time.

The French company behind the prestigious guidebooks is set to announce Tuesday that it will publish a guide for Toronto, according to two sources familiar with the matter. The Globe has not identified the sources because they are not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

This is the first project to enter Canada for Michelin. The company publishes guide brochures in more than 30 countries around the world and ranks restaurants with a three-star system, which has a long history shrouded in secrecy.

Federal Tourism Minister Randy Poissonault and Toronto Mayor John Tory, as well as celebrity chefs Daniel Boulud and Alvin Leung who grew up in Toronto, who both own Michelin-starred restaurants around the world, are expected to be announced on Tuesday, sources said. A Michelin spokesman declined to comment Friday.

The news offers a glimpse of hope for fine dining, a part of Toronto’s restaurant industry that has been particularly trapped for the past several years, even as the Michelin brand itself faces questions about its importance in the rapidly changing restaurant scene.

Since 2020, Toronto restaurants – and restaurants across the country – have faced a growing series of challenges: COVID-19 shutdowns, government-imposed shutdowns, supply chain disruptions and labor shortages. After the first wave of COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020, consumer spending at restaurants has fallen more than 20 percent, according to data compiled by the NPD Group. By the first quarter of 2021, spending had fallen an additional 12 percent.

The recent lifting of COVID-19 restrictions has helped Ontario. According to the NPD Group, in-person and online restaurant visits increased 18 percent in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the previous year. However, “full-service” restaurants – which include fine dining – saw a fragile recovery.

Announcing the Michelin Guides, with their raison d’être to attract tourism, is likely to renew hope for such companies. A 2018 study in the Stanford Economic Review found that historically, a one-star Michelin rating for restaurants around the world has translated into a 15 percent price premium for a restaurant. Meanwhile, a three-star review meant an 80 percent premium.

Michelin travel guides were first created in 1899 by the French tire company in an effort to spark interest in travel – and create more demand for cars. In that time, it has evolved into what is arguably the world’s most influential taste arbiter. Many of the world’s most famous chefs consider a one-star rating a great honor. Worldwide, there are only 136 restaurants with an elusive three-star rating.

However, Michelin has come under a host of criticism in recent years. Over the past decade, the directory, which initially began in Europe, has expanded to include countries around the world – more recently to Asia and South America. But it has since been revealed that many of these moves were funded by local tourism boards, raising questions about the fairness of those decisions.

For example, Michelin’s expansion into South Korea in 2016 came after Korean tourism organizations paid the French company nearly US$1.8 million, according to local reports at the time.

Others have also criticized the guide, with its focus on white tablecloths and wine lists, as elitist and overly focused on French-centric ideas — especially as culture around dining strives to become more diverse and democratic.

“This is very big news for Canada. But the first thing that came to my mind was, ‘Why now?'” said Toronto-based chef and author Susan Barr.

She said she hopes to see shifts in the Michelin mandate. “I’d be very curious if there are any updates and conversations about what Michelin will be about: what is their next strategy for the next five or ten years?”

However, she said she hopes that shedding more light on Canada’s restaurant industry will push governments to do more to support restaurant owners and workers — particularly on paid sick leave, corporate government subsidies, and workers’ mental health.

Our Morning Updates and Evening Updates newsletters have been written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s top headlines. Register today.

2022-05-06 19:39:53

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.