“We are delighted to announce that Dubai will be joining the Michelin Guide family. Our team of inspectors is already in the field, in order to prepare the first selection of restaurants, which will be revealed in June.” announced Gwendal Poullennec, International Director of the Michelin Guides. “We will be showcasing the best of Dubai’s gastronomy, to reflect not just the sophistication that the city is famed for, but also the wide diversity of cuisines that the city’s location and history provide,” Poullennec added.
So, what’s the fuss?
Well, for years, The Michelin Guide has been regarded by many as the epitome of what could be achieved as a chef.
One star is awarded to restaurants for “high quality cooking that is worth a stop.” Two stars for “excellent cooking that is worth a detour.” And three stars for “exceptional cuisine that is worth a special journey.”
Gordon Ramsey, the hard-nosed chef we all know and love, cried when his London restaurant lost its two Michelin stars. “I started crying when I lost my stars. It’s a very emotional thing for any chef. It’s like losing a girlfriend. You want her back,” he said.
To understand Michelin’s impact on modern cuisine today, we need to look back at its history.
A star is born
In 1889, two brothers, Edouard and Andre Michelin, bought a rubber factory that specialized in products for farm equipment.
While running this factory, a cyclist showed up at their door with a damaged tire. The frustration of trying to fix the tire, which was glued to the metal wheel, led to an idea that would be the first innovation to come out of the Clermont-Ferrand factory in France, the removable pneumatic tire. That patented, removable, pneumatic tire went on to win the world’s first long-distance cycle race in 1891.
By 1895, it evolved into the world’s first car tire, then the world’s first car tire to handle speeds above 100km per hour and then the world’s first removable rim.
But the demand for car tires was not where the brothers knew it could be. There were still only around 2,200 cars in France. There were not that many roads and you could only buy gasoline at a few pharmacies.
So they started a guide book. Which highlighted hotels, mechanics and gasoline vendors throughout France. To incentivise people to get in their cars and drive.
And as the tire company grew, so did the guide. The books expanded beyond France and became so popular Michelin started charging for them. In 1926, they added fine dining restaurants to the guide. The first Michelin star ratings were given later that year. And in 1931, the rating system was expanded to become the Michelin three-star rating we know today.
How are restaurants judged?
The process starts with a selection of a number of restaurants in select locations. Then a few anonymous inspectors visit these restaurants. One inspector may go back to the same restaurant more than once. They may visit alone or accompanied by a guest. And they don’t visibly take notes during their visit.
You just never know. And that’s part of the design. The process in underway in the emirate now.
They will each judge the establishment on the following:
- quality of products
- mastery of flavour and cooking techniques
- the personality of the chef represented in the dining experience
- value for money
- consistency between inspectors’ visits
Apparently, elements such as ambiance, decor, wine selection and the quality of the service are not judged. But, as one can imagine, these do all add to the overall experience. Which in turn, one can imagine, impacts the overall score.
Each inspector follows each visit with a comprehensive, written report. They then all meet to analyse the reports and decide the worthiness of the restaurant of one, two or three stars.
The guide is currently published in 36 cities worldwide. In 2020, the most awarded cities were:
- France: 628
- Japan: 577
- Italy: 374
- Germany: 307
- The United States: 169
Dubai has Michelin chefs, not Michelin stars
Today, there are no restaurants in Dubai with Michelin stars. But chefs who have won Michelin Stars for restaurants in other cities, have opened establishments in Dubai.
Gordon Ramsey has the Bread Street Kitchen and Hell’s Kitchen. Massimo Boturra opened Torno Subito which recently won What’s On Dubai‘s Highly Commended award for Favorite Italian Restaurant. Nobu Matsuhisa‘s Nobu Dubai is as popular as ever. And Social by Heinz Beck is currently a Fact Magazine Dining Awards 2022 nominee in the category Italian Fine Dining.
The list goes on. And a simple Google search will have you dining somewhere spectacular tonight.
Michelin Stars are good for business
The late Joël Robuchon holds the title of being awarded the most Michelin stars in the world. 31 in total.
And according to him: “With one Michelin star, you get about 20% more business. Two stars, you do about 40% more business, and with three stars, you’ll do about 100% more business.”
But what happens when you lose a star?
When chef Kevin Thornton’s restaurant in Dublin, Ireland lost its star, profits declined 76%, eventually forcing the restaurant to close in late October 2016.
Locals are excited
The reaction from the local F&B industry is overwhelmingly positive.
Winner of Time Out’s 2022 award for Best Middle Eastern Restaurant in Dubai, and What’s On Dubai’s 2022 award for Homegrown Restaurant of the Year, celebrity Chef Mohamad Orfali of Orfali Bros Bistro (pictured in this article) told portafilter:
The arrival of the Michelin guide in Dubai is an indication that the culinary scene has taken off into the stratosphere. As a melting pot of both civilizations and cuisines, Dubai is definitely one to watch, as far as international awards go. It will not only drive other restaurants and chefs like myself towards excellence, but will also increase competitiveness and quality to reach the pinnacle.
The Michelin guide coming to town is the achievement of pushing standards and boundaries in the region since years for many chefs, raising the bar of better sustainability, craft and personality. This will set higher standards for the city, bringing along many talents and finally giving to Dubai the place that is due into the culinary world.
I think it’s great to have another platform in the UAE to motivate chefs and restauranteurs to do better, to continually strive to improve and offer their very best to the region and their guests. It’s a fantastic initiative to create a destination based on well trusted reviews and recommendations from publications and platforms such as the Michelin guide and 50Best. I believe that Michelin would also take into consideration all the unique cuisines, not just fine dining locations as Dubai is a very diverse and multicultural destination offering so much to so many.
Hani Almalki, better known to his 19,300 instagram followers as The Bedouin Foodie, told portafilter:
The Michelin guide’s coverage will have a huge impact on Dubai as a culinary destination. There are very few cities that can rival Dubai’s depth of ethnic and regional cuisines because it is the ultimate melting pot here. If you’re looking for Lebanese, Palestinian, Indian, Iranian or South East Asian food, Dubai has them. It’s one destination with a plethora of cuisines.
And FLTR’s Instagram followers have weighed in as well. In fact, they got straight to the heart of the matter and nominated the winners. Their shortlist is: Orfali Bros Bistro, Moonrise, Ossiano, Tresind Studio, Hosekki, 3Fils, Teible and Avatara.
We’ll know who won the coveted star in June 2022. Who do you think it’ll be?