Food For Thought: Lesser Known Bits About the Michelin Guide

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Singapore’s gastro-scene has been heating up the past week, thanks to the recent debut of the country’s first ever edition of the Michelin Guide, which some regard as the quintessential, definitive food bible of world cuisine.

The guide, led by a team of unidentified inspectors, course through restaurants after restaurants, deciding which restaurants are worthy of their elusive stars. The stars they do dish out describes the reported fineness of their meals – a single star defines “a very good restaurant in its category", two calls for a worthy detour to “excellent cooking”, while a rare three stars signal "exceptional cuisine” that is “worth a special journey".

This year’s spread includes contemporary French restaurant Joël Robuchon as the lone recipient of the three Michelin stars and six other restaurants which snagged two stars. The remaining 22 restaurants, which include Asian street food, received one star.

Now that you’ve got the basics down, there are still some lesser known aspects of the Michelin Guide, like these:

Not Everyone Wants a Star

Given the prestige and hype surrounding the Michelin stars, it might come as a surprise that some people actually don’t want any association with the mystical guide. But the stars are not forever, and while achieving any at all is no small feat, the pressure of maintaining them can be enormous.

In 2003, French chef Bernard Loiseau committed suicide amid media speculation that one of his restaurants was on the verge of losing a star. Chef Jacques Lameloise of the three-Michelin starred Lameloise later revealed that Loiseau had once talked about killing himself if he ever lost a star. Later reports, however, maintained that Loiseau despaired over mounting debt and declining customers to his restaurants.

Even Chef Gordon Ramsay famously admitted his anguish over losing a star, comparing the experience to “losing a girlfriend”.

Not An Oscar Award

When it comes to the Michelin stars, it is common find certain chefs or websites describing themselves as a Michelin-starred chef. To put it in perspective, it was Michael Ellis himself who said that stars aren’t given to a chef, but to a restaurant.

“It’s not like an Oscar,” says the international director of the Michelin guides. “It’s not a physical thing. It’s really an opinion. It’s recognition.”

Joël Robuchon Makes History

The lone recipient of the legendary three Michelin star rating in Singapore is no stranger to stars. In fact, the French chef, said to be “the most influential French chef of the post-nouvelle cuisine era”, would be adding the three Michelin stars from Singapore to his 30 other Michelin stars, from his string of restaurants across Hong Kong, Las Vegas, London, Bangkok, Bordeaux, Macau, Monaco, Paris, Taipei, Tokyo and now, Singapore.

Said to offer lush yet “unpretentious” dining, the newly-awarded three Michelin star restaurant in Singapore brings contemporary French cuisine with a touch of sophistication, rounding up with an ambiance inspired by the flair of art deco.

"From the quality of the ingredients - with only the best selected - to the finesse of the cooking, through to the impressive wine list that includes over 1000 references, the experience offered by the chef Joël Robuchon is quite simple exceptional! " says Michael Ellis. "Each plate is executed with masterful panache, such as poached lobster in a spicy bouillon, or the farmer's guinea fowl with roast foie gras and each offers gourmets a palette of flavours and memorable intensity of taste".

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