Michelin Inspectors: Food Industry Spies


But don't think that once the restaurant has earned a three-star rating, it can just coast along. Restaurants can still lose stars and Jean Luc Naret said when it happens, the chef usually has an excuse. Losing a rating takes more than just having a dirty fork on the table. It's about the food.

"They change the produce, the recipe, it is not as good as it used to be," Naret said. "There is always a reason, and you say 'well, I should tell you I lost my sous chef' or 'oh I should tell you I actually been sick this year,' 'I'm actually in the process of selling the restaurant,' or 'I break up with my wife,' anything can happen -- but there's always a good reason."

Naret, who will be leaving Michelin soon, said he has been seen as somewhat of a controversial figure.

"The thing I really didn't anticipate was the incredible love and hate affair that the chef has with the Michelin Guide," he said.

Critics of the Guide question the consistency of the rating system, and some have said that it has expanded too far too fast. Japan is one country critics use as an example. Shortly after Michelin arrived, Tokyo now has more three-star restaurants than Paris. Naret defended this.

Inspectors Usually Ask for a Table for One

"You have to compare apple to apple," Naret said. "There are only 15,000 restaurants in Paris. There are 160,000 restaurants in Tokyo, so obviously, more restaurants, more Michelin stars."

Inspector "M" also insisted that all Michelin stars are consistent, whether it's given to a place with placemats or white linen. She admitted being an inspector leads to a lonely dining life.

"Most of the time we dine alone," she said. "It gives us the ability to really focus on the food and the ambience and capture the entire experience."

To cover their tracks, "M" said sometimes two inspectors will dine together and write two separate papers. It's better than saying "table for one," right?

"When you're really, really into food and very passionate about food, everything else that's going on around you isn't so important," she said.

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