We’ve quickly gotten used to the idea of Bangkok having its own edition of the Michelin guide. With restaurants such as Gaggan, Le Normandie or Mezzaluna, it’s rather obvious that some stars do belong in Thailand’s capital – 20 stars to be precise, distributed amongst 17 restaurants.
There, however, are last year’s revelations; what gets Thailand’s foodies drooling today is the arrival of the Red Guide to Phuket & Phang Nga. Soon after the island’s edition of the Michelin Guide was announced at a press conference in Phuket Town, the gossip wheel started spinning – does Phuket deserve stars at all, and if it does than who should get one (or two, with three stars being most certainly out of reach for our island at this point in time…or is it?).
Here at Real Life Phuket we are doing our share of guesswork, and even let you, our readers, make a few guesses and win some splendid prizes in the process – check out this Facebook post for details:
But before we move even further with speculation, let’s look back, at some hard facts with regards to the Michelin Guide. A short lesson in its history will help us all understand better why its arrival to Phuket is such a big deal.
Inaugurated in 1900, the first edition of Andre Michelin’s book was more a handbook for motorist than a restaurant guide. By marking a place with a star, Andre informed his readers that the level of prices in a venue is above average. It was 1920 when the guide was revised and the three-star system introduced. Since then, one star meant a very good restaurant, two stars – an excellent place worth a detour, and three stars – a venue worth a special journey.
From Paris to Tokyo
Beginning with the inaugural edition, Michelin guide favoured French cuisine and France had been the outspoken leader in terms of awarded stars. This changed in late 2000, with the introduction of the Red Guide on Tokyo. The capital of Japan surprisingly out-starred Paris and now these two cities compete for the title of the Gourmet capital of the world.
It is all about the chef, the chef, the chef
In the eyes of Michelin inspectors, nothing and no one has more influence on the restaurant’s rating than the chef. Restaurants that don’t offer chef’s signature dishes have zero chances of getting rated. Also, chefs normally take the stars with them if they leave the featured restaurant. However, some restaurants do enjoy an unofficial title of ‘ever three-starred’. This is true in case of places run by legendary haute cuisine trendsetters, such as Paul Bocuse, Georges Blanc, Michel Troisfros and several others.
Curse of the Death Star
Oscar-winning animation “Ratatouille” depicts celebrity chef Auguste Gusteau who passes away upon hearing that his restaurant lost a star. Funny? If you like black humour, especially that it’s based on a true story or, in fact, several stories. Tragically, Chef Alain Zick shot himself after losing a star in 1966. In 2003 Gerard Besson had a heart attack for the same reason while Bernard Loiseau committed a suicide due to the gossips that his restaurant can lose a star (the speculations proved to be false).
Priced at 1 USD and higher
A widespread belief about fine dining experiences is that they have to cost a fortune. While usually true, it’s not always the case. For instance, Hong Kong’s Tim Ho Wan restaurant launched by Michelin starred chef Mai Pui Gor offers dishes starting at 1-2 USD. Also, several five-star hotels include dining in their Michelin-starred restaurants into various promo packages, so one can book a room at 100-200 USD per night and enjoy a pinnacle dining experience at no extra cost.