A Communication Blog.

Michelin Guide….reliable?

Posted on: October 16, 2010

Michelin mascot, Bibendum with the Michelin Guides

          A quick search on Google with keywords “Michelin guide” would lead to websites declaring the Guide to be “respected”, “a classic guide to exceptional restaurants”, and “comprehension selection to suit all tastes”. While both the print and online media worldwide consider the renowned Michelin Guide to be trustworthy and unbiased, this article claims the opposite.

Old versions of the Guide

          A simple history on the Guide (from Wikipedia): The Michelin Guide is a series of annual guide books published by Michelin for over a dozen countries. It started as a car and road trip guide to the best restaurants and accommodations available along the travel route of motorists. Reviews are held by inspectors that remain anonymous, even to Michelin’s top executives. Now the oldest such publication in the world, it is considered the most well-known and influential guide in the culinary world. It has a rating system from one to three stars, with three stars being the best.

Jean-Luc Naret, Director of Michelin Guides, pictured with a Michelin Guide. From Getty Images AsiaPac.

          Evidently, the Michelin Guide has had a wide repertoire of experience when it comes to reviewing restaurants. To have earned just one of its stars would mean that a chef has reached the epitome of his career. Newspapers, magazines, and even the average blog quote this periodical guide when it comes to culinary excellence. Yet it is undeniable that it is not omnipotent, even with its “famously anonymous” inspectors. The agenda settling function of mass media takes place as the Michelin Guide deals with unobtrusive issues. For example, a tourist visiting France might be unfamiliar with the territory, and is more likely to rely on the Guide (thought to be a reliable source of information) for information on where he or she should dine. Moreover, given its reputation and very, very high up placing in the culinary industry, it has a greater effect compared to a critique in a provincial newspaper.

Announcing its Michelin accreditation

          The periodical guide, published every year or so, has the media functions of surveillance (information) and correlation (analysis and evaluation). However, this function is somewhat limited. The Guide has been based in France since it was first set up. The guides have only recently started to focus on countries outside Europe. Their expertise in international cuisine might be limited, or that they might judge restaurants beyond the European border with criteria that does not apply to the restaurant being reviewed. For example, a Japanese restaurant might have certain customs regarding food or its preparation that are hugely different from European styles. Moreover, with Michelin’s just 50 over reviewers, it is hard to ensure that all 4000 restaurants reviewed keep up their standards, despite a claim that a survey is done every 18 months.

          To conclude, the Michelin Guide might not be as reliable as previously thought to be. Although it shows signs of accuracy (many restaurants with 3 stars are widely agreed by both culinary aficionados and industry insiders to be at the top of their game), it is wiser to acquire information from various sources before reaching a conclusion. This not only applies to the Michelin Guide, but to various media sources which may have their own agenda when it comes to releasing information.

Related links:

Wikipedia on the Michelin Guide
Famously Anonymous Inspectors
The Michelin Guide

Pictures from Google Images

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14 Responses to "Michelin Guide….reliable?"

Yes I think we have to be discerning audiences. Looking at something closer to home, we have all the various television programs that recommend food outlet in Singapore. I do not deny that some of those outlet featured are really good but there are also some that are very disappointing. In fact, I heard that for one of the program what they did was to treat customers to the dish and get them to memorise a script and repeat it on camera. I do not know how true that is. Like you mentioned, food is just a trivial matter but it brings a lot of insight to how we should handle information given by the media.

okay if thats true its really quite dumb. now we know mediacorp is completely unreliable when it comes to food reviews haha.

sometimes i think after a stall receives a lot of good reviews the standard drops, especially if they receive a lot of business after. if a food programme is really reliable they should have periodical reviews haha. but that is not possible cause a food programme might not have that many seasons and viewers might not be interested in watching a restaurant get reviewed AGAIN.

How good food can be? What is the criteria for rating food of various nationality background? Is it worth paying for? I guess human makes everything complex in order to achieve something. At the end of the day, we defecate everything out. Have you ever wonder if a simple bread could taste nice or un-rated restaurant can produce good food? We don’t need humans to tell us what is good or bad, i guess we can judge for ourselves. The only good in producing such reads i guess is to give these restaurants a challenge to improve and better they culinary skills. Besides it also boost a country prominence in this field. At the end of the day one has to think, If one lives to eat or eat to live?

I love food haha so i guess i live to eat. I think that food is important enough to command its own guides, which help others to narrow down prospective restaurants they would like to eat at. It is true others’ opinions shouldn’t be used to define our own. But having a variety of sources to look at certainly helps in giving us scope to pass judgement and in the case of food guides, a unanimous agreement by a number of leading guides on a restaurant would no doubt lead one to desire eating at that particular restaurant to see if it can live up to the hype. reading food guides really does save a lot of time and calories! that said, one definitely shouldnt just eat at recommended restaurants. there are many hole in the wall kinda places/hawker stalls in singapore which are better than or at least restaurant standard.

I agree with Jolyn that food is quite an essential part of our lives. Making new discoveries would be more fun! Dont you agree? besides, the guide is not trying to tell you what is good or bad.. afterall the guides mostly tells us where is worth a try if we are thinking of going to a certain restaurant.. and of course we can judge for ourselves..whos trying to tell you what to do? noone i suppose. its just a GUIDE!
at the end of the day, its your taste bud that matters, its what you think, and not others. And i suppose you eat to live not live to eat?!

live to eat in the sense that i see food as an enjoyment, not just as a means of survival? not a v good explanation i hope you get it..

yupp discovering good food is always fun. theres a tauhuay stall at selegie road which my friend discovered some time back and now its our supper haunt! agreed, you obviously wouldnt let guides command where you eat (if not they would be known as food commands not guides) but to have them influence your opinions somewhat is quite normal i think.

This michelin guide, I suppose, are targeted to specific people. People like you and I, are not the targeted audience and that could be the result of varying comments of it being ‘unreliable’. There are many fascinating kinds of food out there that can be prepared in a myriad of ways. To a person that lives a simple lifestyle, the prawn noodles at Old Airport Road could be worth 2 stars even. In the end, whatever we consume, all comes out of our body the same.

yes. It is reliable in a way. To appear on the michelin guide means that you have achieved some measure of success in the culinary world. But the means of which it is considered to be reliable like how it is “impartial”(with its anonymous inspectors) can be challenged, as it can go both ways. on one hand it means that there is a lack of bias and on the other, who exactly are these people and who are they to judge restaurants of a world class standard?

The michelin guide is of course reliable to a certain extent. It is actually up to one owns discretion to decide whether they want to believe whatever the book said. They can all try it out for themselves, no harm right? It is just a guide.. not a must do must believe kind of thing for everyone’s taste is relatively different.

Hello Jolyn again!

I do agree that the guide is merely well a guide and may not necessarily be the most accurate in terms of its ratings. But I guess it is good to have some form of a yardstick to stir up competition and keep the restaurants on their toes to constantly want to yknow better themselves? And that’s what I think the Michelin Guide acts as.

Nice post! I never heard of the Michelin Guide until I read your post. Anything about food is good!

Agree with you on the difference in cultures. While the guide may be more reliable in France, one has to take the reviews outside of France with a pinch of salt, for we cannot vouch for the reliability of the anonymous reviewers. A way to solve this would be to reveal the identity of the reviewers, of course. If he/she is an internationally recognized chef that perhaps it’d only add credibility to the Guide.

yeah, different people from different cultures have a different way of seeing things, doing things and even their expectation on things vary. Thus, they cannot be used as a universal guide for the rest of the world. As the inspectors and reviewers of the restaurants are anonymous, there is not much credibility, and one is unable to create a good impression of this guide book. In fact, if one follows this book blindly, without doing other research, one might end up having a bad holiday.

Hello!

I think that food is representative of cultures, and having europeans rate asian fare or food from different cultures, for that matter, would be unfair to asians, to say the least. I think that sometimes the ratings only count for that much, because

omg the thing died on me! but yeah, to my point, I think that sometimes, the best thai food, for instance, can only be found on thai streets, and not necessarily in the top restaurants. That is not to say that top restaurants do not serve good food, but such acts may alter the credibility of such authentic hawkers.

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