he is here.
The world-famous Michelin guide has arrived in Canada.
Mayor John Tory announced Tuesday that the restaurant guide, known around the world for its star-rating system, will land in Toronto. The guide, which will be released digitally, is due to be released by the end of the year.
Toure was joined by Café Boulud’s chef, Daniel Boulud, and MasterChef Canada judge and R&D owner Alvin Leung. Both already have Michelin-starred restaurants in other countries, but a Michelin representative said their presence at the event is not an indication that Toronto restaurants will be in the upcoming guide, which is still in the works.
What began as a free travel guide for French tire company customers over a century ago has since become the holy grail of chefs. Canada will join more than 30 countries with a Michelin presence.
Although Canada didn’t have a Michelin Guide yet, most diners have at least heard of the prestigious rating system that starts with one star and goes third.
However, little is known about how Michelin compiled its annual guides.
Anonymous critics, or “inspectors” as Michelin calls them, are already starting to eat around town. The identity of its inspectors is a closely guarded secret, although the Michelin website says its inspectors have experience working in the hospitality industry and pay for their meals as Michelin employees.
Gwendal Polnik, international director of Michelin Guides, told The Star that inspectors have been searching for Toronto restaurants for the past four years – the guide was originally scheduled for 2020, but has been delayed by the pandemic – but he didn’t say if there were any. They are from Toronto to keep their identity confidential.
“We have 20 nationalities who make up the international team,” Polnik said. “They all travel the world and we have different teams in different countries. We will always involve different profiles of inspectors so we can have a consistent standard. Ultimately we would like to make sure that one star here is one star in Paris or Tokyo. You need to know what the food is like The Japanese are in Paris, New York, or Toronto.”
Andrew Weir, executive vice president of Destination Toronto, the marketing organization for the city’s tourism board, said the Michelin Guide is an “investment catalyst” for the city’s culinary sector.
“It has not lost sight of what the restaurant industry has gone through and its ongoing challenges. It is also important to get the global attention that will help support the recovery,” Weir said.
He noted, however, that this is not a recovery strategy as it was starting before the pandemic.
“It’s attracting new chefs and investing in local sources, so it’s not just restaurants.”
Tourism boards, local governments and industries sometimes pay Michelin in hopes of boosting tourism. It was reported last November that Visit Florida had paid Michelin $150,000 for guides on where to eat in Miami, Orlando, and Tampa. The California Tourism Board paid $600,000 for a statewide guide in 2019.
Ware confirmed that there is what he calls a partnership between Destination Toronto and Michelin, but did not reveal how much is being spent.
He said the money would go to Michelin to create Toronto-focused content to promote the city, but added that the city had no say in which restaurants would get stars or be mentioned in the guides.
Ware said inspectors have checked areas outside of downtown Toronto, such as Scarborough and Etobicoke, but they don’t know which restaurants were visited or if they were in the guidebook.
Cory Mintz, a restaurant employment reporter and former critic of Restaurant Star, said Michelin is good for bringing in business, but he asks where a restaurant guide known for fine dining would fit in at a time when employment conditions are in the public consciousness.
“The real problem with Michelin Guide stars is that work is not a factor in the judging process,” Mintz said. “It doesn’t matter how restaurants treat the people who make the food, and in my experience both working in and reporting on restaurants is that the most luxurious food is produced only by treating workers poorly.”
Mintz has previously written about the culinary stages, or internships, where chefs hoping to make it to the world’s finest restaurants often work without pay.
In 2011, it was reported that Spain’s three-star El Bulli had 32 trainees working 14 hours a day for months at a time in exchange for housing and one meal a day. At that time, the bully had 13 permanent employees, including its owner.
The Michelin guides found in other cities have also been met with criticism.
The chefs spoke of the pressures that come with new international interest when the guide arrives, including difficulties keeping up with growing crowds, and the pressures of maintaining high standards to keep the stars and meet the growing expectations of diners.
And while Michelin is synonymous with fine dining, in 1997 it launched the Bib Gourmand Awards recommending more affordable locations along with The Plate’s label for places that “serve simply good food”. But in response to last year’s Michelin Guide to the Bay Area, a critic at the San Francisco Chronicle Soleil questioned why there are restaurants in the Bib Gourmand Awards that serve food that reflects the demographics of the region while the more famous stars preferred more upscale venues serving New Americans, Japanese and Americans. French cooking.
Girl Guides have also come under heavy criticism in previous years for rewarding a few chef-led restaurants. And in a 2020 publication looking at the lack of diversity in America’s best restaurants, Michelin also acknowledged that of the more than 1,500 North American restaurants it recommended, “a fraction boast a person of color as a president or CEO. Filter the selection by restaurant ownership among people of color. And the numbers will go down even more.”
Chef Eva Chen of Avling in Lisleville, known for her reinterpretation of regional Chinese cooking, said she’s less concerned with the stars and more with the relatively new Michelin Green Star award that recognizes restaurants that reduce carbon footprints and use sustainable ingredients.
She also wonders how well the next Toronto guide will reflect the city’s extensive cuisine and dining experiences.
“I’d be interested to see if Michelin does anything other than reward the tablecloth experience,” Chen said. “In[Asia guides]it is more diverse and there are other places that are 30 or 50 years old that are owned by mom and pop. I hope to see that in Canada.”
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