From Michelin to the World’s 50 Best Restaurants: the turning point
Photo Óscar Oliva Mugaritz
El Celler De Can Roca
Michelin always seemed very content. In spite of being criticised and hated, you know: “any publicity is good publicity”. Or after being called “a telephone directory” by the legendary Christian Millau, creator of the Gault Millau guide in the days of Nouvelle Cuisine, the fact that it was the only one of its kind in the world of cuisine made an incompetent tyrant of the Michelin guide.
By Xavier Agulló for SPN Magazine
Years went by and the red guide became like the only species in a theme park, concerned solely with keeping the French anachronisms at the pinnacle year upon year and in doing some juicy business beyond Europe. The protests intensified with each edition – with much hostility from Spain, which was the great forgotten land in spite of the global “revolution”. But so what? A private guide can do what it wants, let’s not forget that Ferran’s third star was delayed by two years. It was not long since Bernard Loiseau’s suicide and the complaints in the New York Times which declared the “unreality” of the “macarons” (as the French refer to the guide's stars) when Pascal Remy, a former inspector of the guide, revealed Michelin’s other, shadier side. In his book, “L’Inspecteur se met a table” (“The Inspector sits at the table”), where he spoke about “the lowering of standards, the infrequent visits and the less than optimum conditions and, worst of all, the shameless favouritism for certain brands…” To add more wood to the fire, in Spain, people talked about veiled bribes for favours. And then, one fine day the English appeared. To begin with it was just a fad but, little by little, year after year, their list became much truer, fairer, better attuned to what was indeed happening throughout the world. France, in the World’s 50 Best, had an unobtrusive presence, even in the top 10. Wow, that was cool. Michelin sensed the breath of London on its conservative neck. Years later, very quietly but steadily, the English capital became the centre of gastronomy at the beginning of every year, at the World’s 50 Best gala. And Michelin was trembling. What had been their status symbol, of conservatism, luxury and seriousness, was teetering on the edge of the abyss. And the resounding echoes of Big Ben reached Paris marking the hours of a new era. And so, with this furore of the converted, it fell on the opposite side, into the banalest postmodernity they so scorned, even though in recent years they have moderated their initial forceful and disoriented “update”. But the tide had already turned.
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