Over a century old, the Michelin Guide, the star-ratings restaurant guide paid for by the French tire company, is arguably the best-known on the planet.
But recently, the guide has taken its fair share of heat. A.A. Gil of Vanity Fair has said, "It's no accident that the legacy of 100 years of Michelin is not just an emaciated, inhospitable French table but the legion of score-settling adjective junkies populating unreadable Internet blogs." And Esquire's John Mariani adds, "Rather than handing down pontifical blessings, they now seem to toss out stars in an effort to be loved, at least by people able to toss around $500 for dinner."
Has the Michelin Guide lost its relevance? I asked Valley chefs and restaurateurs, and this is what they had to say:
Chef Anthony Rivera District American Kitchen & Wine Bar
While Michelin Guides are widely known as the most respected source of restaurant reviews and evaluations, people nowadays are seeking online reviews. The Michelin Guide is failing to keep up with the majority of diners and will only continue to affect the highest echelon of dining. With all of the self-proclaimed "foodies," social sites such as Trip Advisor and Yelp connect with people much more than the larger rating systems of old.
Gina Buskirk Chef and Owner, Gina's Homemade
In Arizona, it's basically irrelevant; but in regions they cover well, like New York, London, Continental Europe, and parts of Asia, it's an indispensable guide to fine-dining restaurants. But remember these two qualifiers: First, it's a guide, not the gospel; and second, their job is covering only fine dining.
Bernie Kantak Chef and Partner, Citizen Public House
The Michelin guide is certainly relevant, but not to me or most of the places that I will ever dine at. There are too many small places that I would rather hit that will never have an inspector cross their threshold. Have never picked one up and probably never will.
Christopher Gross, Chef and Owner, Christopher's Restaurant & Crush Lounge
It's still relevant because they review a large amount of restaurants all over the world, but the ratings are done by professionals in the industry. It's not so much of a popularity contest or who you know because, with Michelin, it's based purely on their system and you can't up your rating with social media. Like restaurant critics, you may not always agree with them, but they seem to be fair.
Chef Andrea Volpi Local Bistro
The Michelin Guide is a time-tested recognition for the best restaurants around the world. It critiques and rates the establishment's quality, service, and food. After many years, it is still very relevant to the industry and directs people to incredible experiences.
Aaron May, Chef and Restaurateur
I think the Guide is useful for a certain segment of the dining public. In a place like Phoenix, it's irrelevant. Maybe one or two restaurants here would even belong in that conversation, let alone warrant receiving stars. But if you have the expendable income to make a special trip to dine at a three-star restaurant, I think it would be a nice road map.
Michael Rusconi, Chef and Owner, Rusconi's American Kitchen
In the United States, the Guide is irrelevant because they rate very few restaurants. Instead, we have Mobil (stars) and AAA (diamonds) that are both highly respected. Very few establishments achieve 5-Star or 5-Diamond status. Michelin is the most important and well-respected rating system throughout Europe. If you earn Michelin stars, you have really accomplished something.
Eric Flatt, Co-owner, Tonto Bar & Grill/Cartwright's Sonoran Ranch House
It was once the guide that we all lived by in the resort business. Those times are long gone, along with the pretentious dining experience. Now, it seems that a true unbiased guest review on a social media site speaks louder and faster than a yearly published book.
Chef Chris McKinley, Atlas Bistro
The Michelin Guide is still the benchmark for perfection in professional kitchens. Every great chef can keep pursuing the highest honor in their field: The Michelin 3-Star award.
Eric O'Neill Chef and CEO, SmartKitchen.com
In earlier years, the Michelin Guide was the go-to guide to find out what restaurants were considered the best in whatever area you were traveling to. Nowadays, the guide still acts as a decision-maker, but now we have foodie blogs, Yelp and other tools that give information about local restaurants and provide insight regarding which ones are good and which aren't worth your time and money.
Brian Dooley Chef and Owner, Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue
In this new world, where anyone with a smart phone and an opinion thinks they're a food critic, the Michelin Guide is more relevant now than ever.
Chef Stephen Jones Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails
It still means everything. It's prestige, it's grace, it's damn hard work (especially in this day and time). It's the ultimate thank-you from a mostly European governing body that recognizes you as one of the best in your region. It's still relevant, although I understand that the industry has changed and people aren't willing to commit to a three-hour-plus meal anymore; which means less available venues that qualify for the honor.
Chef Jacques Qualin J&G Steakhouse
The Michelin Guide has been a icon for grading restaurants and has been copied worldwide, so it's definitely relevant. People should always be sure to compare apples to apples, though. One star in the United States is determined differently than one star in Europe.
Chef Stephen Toevs The Ritz-Carlton, Phoenix
A Michelin Star chef gains a lot of respect both within the culinary industry and out in the general public. It's a highly esteemed status around the world and a very relevant recognition for chefs. To be listed in the Michelin Guide is an achievement many still strive for every year.
Chef Don Newman Taps Signature Cuisine & Bar, Mesa
As people's taste evolve or become less evolved by too much fast food, the true epicurean or gourmet seeker will always have the true standards of culinary excellence and service to fall back on. The Michelin Guide still gives those who want all of their culinary taste buds satisfied a guide to these fabled retreats and what to expect.
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Chef Kurt Jacobsen Hidden Meadow Ranch, Greer
I don't think the Michelin Guide is relevant to the United States. Years ago, maybe. But since then, American chefs have carved out their own space in the world.