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Michelin Season Heats Up





W ith the falling of the leaves and the autumnal harvest come many seasonal events we all look forward to – the small town fairs, the harvest dinners, baseball playoffs and the inevitable new fashion trends....and the new Michelin guide for New York City! The results for the 2007 guide will be released on October 24th, and the guide itself is available in stores the 25th. But the biggest story is the release of the premiere Michelin guide for San Francisco on October 3rd, which also covers other areas around the Bay area including Silicon Valley and Napa Valley (more stars for Mr. Keller?). Looking to get an insider’s peek at the 2007 New York guide, Restaurant Insider turned to the Michelin guide’s director Jean-Luc Naret, to see if we could penetrate the Michelin man’s penchant for secrecy and get any inside information on the upcoming guides.

Q: Last year’s guide sold about 100 thousand copies and you had to do a reprint after only 2 weeks, were you pleased with the guide’s sales?

A: Yes, absolutely and we are very delighted to note as well that New Yorkers were buying the guide. Our guide was sold in all the cities where we normally sell our guides, but 85% of all the guides were bought by New Yorkers who wanted to see the selection and review the selection. Every time I come back to the city and look at the restaurants, it’s nice to notice the restaurants displaying the star they received in the window or in the restaurant itself.

Q: What impact do you think the 1st edition of the New York guide had on restaurants here?

A: Some restaurants were telling us that they have more than 25% business above what they had last year because they had been mentioned in the guide. Even Thomas Keller, whose restaurant was already full, mentioned that he received many more reservations and requests for reservations. Jean Georges was telling me that he received letters from cooks around the world who want to work for him now because he’s a 3-star Michelin. I think it has an incredible impact in terms of the business as well, exactly like it is in Europe. It’s very good for us because it means that our readers follow our selections and read our recommendations as well.

Q: Besides some adjustments in the restaurants that are included, what differences, if any, will there be in this year’s guide compared to the 2006 guide?

A: We adjusted the format in that the text will be longer, including more information on New York, which many people were saying was missing from the first edition. The book will be about the same number of pages, but the text will be longer. What we did last year was we included a recipe from the starred restaurants, and we realized that our readers didn’t want to try the recipes. It was better for them to try the restaurant than to try the recipe at home. This we changed and we actually introduced more sample menus from the restaurants rather than any one single recipe.

Q: What was the timing for newly opened restaurants to be included in the 2007 guide?

A: Usually we close our selection by the end of August. Everything that was open before that, and has been tested to be entered in the guide, will be entered in the guide. But we always try to make sure that we’re not testing a restaurant the first week they are opening. We’ll go there, and if it deserves to be mentioned, it is mentioned, but in order to get a star it is going to take a bit of time for them to make sure it is at that level. Any restaurant will have to prove that they deserve the award of getting a star.

Q: Can we assume there will be restaurants that lose stars in this edition, and others who are possibly not in the guide anymore that were in the first edition?

A: Yes, it’s the same as it is in Europe, every year the selection is measured against last year, every restaurant is tested and some standard selections got a different rating, and some didn’t. Some will be gone from the selection either because the restaurant has been closed, or the chef has moved, or because the quality of the food has declined. Others will be added because perhaps in the first selection they deserved to be included but we didn’t put them in it, and we found that the level of their cuisine deserved to be recognized by the Michelin guide. Others are recently opened and therefore will not be in the guide.

Q: Will the San Francisco guide be the same format, just a smaller amount of restaurants in their guide, or the same as New York?

A: The same format, but a little smaller, the book will have 360 restaurants all together (as opposed to 500 in New York), and about 60 hotels. It will include the San Francisco Bay and the wine country.

We tried to find out what cities Michelin’s inspectors will be sent to next, or which restaurants might get stars in the new Bay Area guide or the 2nd edition of the New York guide, but we could not penetrate Mr. Naret’s wall of secrecy. We’ll try again next year, around this time.





           

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