The Michelin Guide has long been considered one of the most reputable lists of the top restaurants in the world. However, it has come under harsh criticism in recent years, particularly with the Guide’s low number of female-headed eateries, and the pressure that has driven chefs to request being taken off of the list.
You can now add chef, author, and TV personality Andrew Zimmern to that list of critics, as he just took the Michelin Guide (amongst others) to town in an interview with Extra Crispy.
“I do not believe Michelin stars are relevant anymore at all,” he said, calling out the Michelin Guide and the San Pellegrino 100, another prestigious list of restaurants, in the interview.
Zimmern feels that these guides are growing out of touch because of the vast amount of territory they choose to not cover.
“You look at the vast majority of restaurants in the San Pellegrino 100 for example, or the vast number of restaurants that have received Michelin stars, and they ignore such a large volume of the world’s culinary scene, it’s shocking to me. South Asia, Africa, and even with as much South American representation as there is, so much is ignored. I’m really stunned by it.”
To Zimmern, these guides and their restaurants are just the “tip of the spear” as to what food really can be. That makes sense, given how little global coverage the Michelin version actually has. It only covers 25 different countries in total, and even then, has guides more specific to cities rather than entire nations. Even in the United States, culinary bastions like Charleston and Austin get stiffed because no guide for their town exists, and the food can be just as good or even better than the restaurants getting stars in other locations.
Zimmern also feels that “ethnicity, ethnocentrism, and sexism” has become “extremely hurtful” in how those guides are constructed. “You don’t have to look very closely at any of it to see that it’s an old white boys’ club,” he said.
So if you are looking for some of the top food wherever you are, what do you turn to if not the Michelin Guide or the San Pellegrino 100? “You have a cell phone,” Zimmern says, describing it as the best tool to find the tastiest eats in your area. “You can access food writers, chefs, line cooks, and local publications in three minutes on Twitter to vet the five best eating experiences in any city or town in the world.”
As for the guides, Zimmern believes he can lend a hand in making them more relevant.
“There are not many people who are well suited to critique how that list is done,” he states, “I happen to think that I’m one of them. The reason that I do and say that is because I’m actually traveling all over the world eating at these places.”
It’s a spicy take from Zimmern to call out those prestigious guides in such a way, but it may be a wake-up call that they can use to diversify their lists to make them more contemporary.