The Michelin Guide may be the most prestigious and famous “ranking system” for chefs and restaurants, but it is far from the only one. There are stars, hats, rosettes, plates diamonds and countless social platforms whose main purpose is to judge a chefs performance.
IS it any wonder chefs are going mad trying to keep up? Imagine any other profession being judged up to 500 times a day, every day, with no clue as to when the grading was taking place. I can’t think of anyone else I know that goes to work under such immense pressure.
Sure, anyone that deals with the public has to realize that anyone can leave a review. A disappointed dental patient can call the BBB and complain about long wait times. If, as a mechanic, you make someone feel uncomfortable you can expect a comment or even a 1 star review on Facebook or TripAdvisor. But at the end of the day there are two main differences: number one – those complaints have a name associated with them. You as a business owner can look back, see where your service practices failed and make corrections. The other is that other people can and will always apply context when reading that review or complaint. Yes, the mechanic made you feel creepy, but you are a twenty something uppity spoiled rotten woman with a stick up your butt… easy enough to discount that particular review.
In reviewing food at the highest levels, there is no context. There is no name to go with the grading. Hell, a lot of times chefs are not even aware of the exact criteria we are being judged by. Is it subjective, and if so how come we are not privy to the same explanation process as anyone else. Think about those circumstances for a second: we are judged by nameless/faceless people, at anytime during our entire hectic lives with zero rhyme or reason as to when, using criteria we are not allowed to know and zero chance to discuss the results with anyone. This is why we have to reevaluate the way that chefs are “graded.” This is not healthy, nor would I argue is it a fair representation of what a chef is capable of.
Look no further than the latest chef to bow out of the Michelin Guide altogether, Chef Sebastien Bras. According to reports, he no longer wishes to deal with the pressure of knowing every meal he sends out could be the one to lose his ranking as one of only 27 French Restaurants to have 3 stars. I cannot fathom that level of pressure. It must remove so much of the joy and passion that a chef feels when they create amazing food.
And finally, it stifles creativity. Once you have been ranked, you must continue along those same lines in order to maintain it. While some chefs receive and maintain their stars simply for their innovation, all too often, chefs that get stars or hats or diamonds decide to simply repeat exactly what got them there, for fear that something new may not sit as well with those nameless, faceless critics.
I for one think we need to revamp the system entirely. It is a dated system that no longer fills its need. Printed guides once held their place as the sole resource for travellers when going to a new area. With the advent of the internet, social media and the overall digital age, surely there is a new way to spread the news of talented chefs, unique and amazing cuisine and not damage those chefs or stifle their creativity along the way.
- Chef Adam Scott, for Dalstrong
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