Michelin madness

I went to the ridiculous party Michelin threw for its new New York Red Guide to hotels and restaurants. There were lots of chefs there. In typically haughty French fashion, the invitation requested we wear ties (I'm surprised they didn't require Hermes ties). The French chefs like Eric Ripert and Jean-Georges Vongerichten were there to accept congratulations for their 3 star designated restaurants. Other chefs and restaurateurs were there to get a copy of the guide to see if their restaurants even rated a mention. It was rather strange, really. After some mediocre passarounds we had to stand through two self-congratulatory speeches from Michelin executives about how thrilled they were to finally bestowing their wisdom on restaurants in America. Today, New York, tomorrow Grand Forks seemed to be the gist of what they were saying. Finally, an hour in, actors dressed as waiters carrying copies of the guide on trays made their way down the final ramp of the Guggenheim.

Thirty seconds after the guides were distributed, the place started emptying out like a movie theatre after a bomb threat.

When I got home and leafed through the guide, I was struck by a number of things, some obvious, some not.

First, under the obvious category, the Michelin inspectors turn out to be completely Franco-centric. The only restaurants to get three stars were either French (Le Bernardin, Jean Georges, Alain Ducasse) or French-inspired (Per Se). I supposed this is the food equivalent of the Russians judging their own figure skaters at the Olympics.

But the New York dining scene is so rich and varied, even more so than Paris, and the criteria and the methodology and basic point of view of the Michelin inspectors are so outdated and antiquated, why should we be surprised that the Michelin inspectors don't get food in New York and America as a whole. After all, they've proven in the past that they don't get French food and they don't get Asian food and they don't get Spanish food, so why should New York be any different.

Until the Michelin Guide inspectors acknowledge that New Yorkers specifically and Americans in general don't give a rat's ass about how fancy the stemware is and how haughty the maitre'd is, and that what we care about is eating serious, delicious food in an unpretentious, comfortable setting, the Michelin Red Guides in America will be irrelevant to the great majority of us unwashed Americans.

And on a personal note, I am outraged that Papaya King and Una Pizza Napoletana didn't receive a single star. This is not right!