Jean-Luc Naret, the director of the Michelin Guide, talks about restaurant ratings.
When it comes to opining about dining, no one has a bigger job than Jean-Luc Naret, director of the Michelin Guide, Europe's venerable red hotel and restaurant reference. After issuing its first U.S. edition last year—for New York City—the company turned west. Michelin Guide San Francisco and the Bay Area 2007 hits stores in early October.
Q Why San Francisco?
A Michelin published its first guide in 1900. It took us 105 years to realize we should cross the Atlantic. New York was a natural first, but I don't think there's anywhere in this country where people are more passionate about food than here in San Francisco.
Q Aren't there enough dining guides?
A We don't try to compete with existing publications. We're another resource for anyone deeply interested in food.
Q What makes your guide trustworthy?
A Our inspectors are totally anonymous. There's nothing worse than going to a restaurant when all the attention is on another table because there's a celebrity or a critic or someone known to the chef sitting there. Our people receive no special treatment. And each place is visited by multiple inspectors.
Q Do your diners appreciate our food?
A We are not a French company rating American restaurants. In France, we are French. In Italy, Italian. And here, we are American.
Q Will any local favorites get the full three stars?
A Hopefully, we'll have at least one.
Q Is a star in San Francisco the same as a star in Paris?
A Absolutely. One reason we have the reputation we have is that people see us as a benchmark around the world.
Q Are your inspectors, um, large?
A You mean with big, round bellies like the Michelin man? No. They make about 150 hotel visits a year and have 250 to 300 lunches and dinners. To do that, you have to be in good condition.
Photography courtesy Michelin North America, Inc.
This article was first published in September 2006. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.