Earlier this week the country’s top chefs gathered in London for a glittering occasion. The launch of the new Michelin Guide took place at the Institute of Engineering on the Embankment. The Plumbers Institute might have been a more appropriate choice of venue given the number of leaks usually surrounding the annual unveiling of the Michelin stars.
Traditionally the press release is sent out too early, it spills out on social media or a chef’s cousin who works in a bookshop spots an advance copy and tells all. This year Michelin finally woke up to the annual fiasco and set out to avoid it by staging a formal announcement ceremony onstage. Instead of the news leaking out early, this year everyone had to wait for over an hour as sponsors made tedious speeches and the host referred to Raymond Blanc as Mr Blank.
Finally came the long-awaited announcement- no change for Scotland. The disappointment was palpable.
It means we retain 12 single Michelin starred establishments, with Restaurant Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire still the only place to have two stars. For Glasgow it is an unlucky 13 years since Scotland’s biggest city last had a Michelin star. So what’s going wrong for Scotland with Michelin and does it really matter ?.
For most people the answer is no. The vast majority never eat Michelin food and even most chefs don’t want the hassle of delivering perfection on a plate every single day. But that means nothing. Despite all it’s many faults, Michelin remains the defining standard for food everywhere. Every industry requires a benchmark to measure delivery and when it comes to food, Michelin is how we measure the very best.
On that basis, as a country with the finest produce, we deserve great restaurants and we do have them but why isn’t the new, emerging talent being recognised?. The simple answer is, it just takes time. According to Michelin insiders, the organisation has two criteria for award winning stars. Forget expensive wine lists, gleaming crystal glasses and pristine linen napkins, all the inspectors are interested in is the quality of food and the level of consistency.
Delivering a great dining experience is hard, but doing it day in and day out is a different level of tough and that is what Michelin expects. Getting that right can take years and then the inspector has to call.
With just 120 staff visting thousands of restaurants for 23 Michelin Guides, those well-fed individuals have their work cut out. Add in the boom in new restaurants with half a dozen opening in Edinburgh in the next month and it is not hard to see why the process can be slow and drawn out.
It took years to get Scotland up to a dozen Michelin starred restaurants. Looking around the country, another three or four places have been cooking at the top level for some time and could easily earn a star. On top of that, a jump from two to three stars for Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles would be no surprise at all.
It’s time to pack the feverish speculation away in the cupboard for another year. After all, a watched kettle never boils.