Are Chicago Chefs About to Get REALLY Competitive? Here Comes the Michelin Guide.

Josh Brusin

July 13 2010 - 4:35 PM

Michelin_chicago Chicago has always seemed to be a nice town for food. Chefs are more comrades than cutthroats, at least many of them. That may change when the Michelin Guide comes to town. Forget the brand name 3-star news. Simply, who gets included and who doesn't will be a burr under every head chef's saddle. I would think kitchen staff will start jumping ship, looking to "work at a Michelin-starred restaurant".  If chefs have quit the business, gone OCD, even one killed himself… how far-fetched is it really?

I went through a phase eating at ranked restaurants and it did serve as a kind of bucket-list to accomplish but in all honesty, I was able to get as much enjoyment from places that weren't 'listed'. That said, having Michelin breathing down everyone's necks may help drive decor, wine lists, service, and food to new heights. You can't beat the motivation. It also might be a draw to aspiring chefs. In the words of Eric Ripert from a New Yorker article,

“Most of us very young cooks were aspiring to be one day a three-star
chef,” Ripert told me. “Very few of us were aspiring to have a bistro.”
But when Ripert joined Le Bernardin, in 1991, Michelin did not yet have
an outpost in New York, and there were no plans to open one. “I
remember sometimes chefs here, especially the French ones—and even some
American ones—we were a bit frustrated that we will never be judged by
Michelin,” Ripert said. “But at the same time we were a little bit,
like, more relaxed because obviously the Michelin puts pressure on
chefs and restaurateurs to be excellent.”

Whether the chefs go crazy, and we hope they don't, is one thing but
critics, yelpers, and your average Chicago foodies are all going to certainly shake their heads
when the guide comes out. Favorites are always missed. Lists are only good for so much. (Gulliver's was left off the Chicago Magazine 'Best Pizza' list, so how good could that list be?).

I appreciate Zagat in it's lackadaisical 'reader's choice' approach to food as well as Yelp's tyranny of the majority and feel that Michelin is a good complement for the town. But I do worry that it will be a wrench in the machine that in my mind works extremely well.

I'm as curious as anyone else about how many stars they dole out to Trotter's, Alinea, Frontera, Tru, etc. but also what the surprises will be. There are a TON of awesome restaurants in town and I'm sure there will be a surprise star or two here and there.

It just kind of feels like some folks from out of town are going to show up and tell us our business…

The guide is coming out this November. God help us.

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