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Thursday, November 19, 2009

New Yorker Probes the Mystery of the Michelin Inspector

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2009 at 9:25 AM

From Dana Goodyear's previous fist-bump with Pulitzer Prize-winning LA Weekly food critic Jonathan Gold, to Calvin Trillin's poutine exposé, the New Yorker has offered up scrumptious reads of late, but Lunch with M, John Colapinto's chronicle of lunch at Jean Georges with a Michelin inspector, is one we've pored over a few times already.

We suspected it all along -- Michelin inspectors are a super race.
  • We suspected it all along -- Michelin inspectors are a super race.
We're particularly fascinated by the idea that Michelin inspectors are experts by virtue of their training, experience, and education. A degree in hospitality, cooking, or hotel management is a prerequisite, which makes some sense, but it's also suggested -- by M herself, as she carves up a foie gras brulée -- that professionals like her and her colleagues may be endowed with biological advantages when it comes to discerning flavors. In M's words, "cooking is a science, and either it's right or it's wrong." But what good is an innately superior palate, we wonder, when the well-heeled mediocrities who flock to multistar restaurants might not be able to taste the difference between a stunning risotto and an ordinary one, and -- gasp -- might not really care that they can't? Eating at a restaurant is an experience, and the Michelin guide doesn't share that.

To avoid "buying in" to Michelin's oft-criticized process, we're not going to waste space on localized gripes regarding how the Bay Area's latest assortment of stars were distributed -- except to say that they ought to have put some Asian spots "on the wall." Whoops, that slipped out. We promise we'll stop. We can hardly afford to eat at any of these restaurants anyway -- save for Aziza, maybe Range on a good night, and Range -- though tasty -- doesn't deserve a star any more than perhaps a half-dozen other restaurants just a force-fed goose's waddle away from Valencia and 19th. Uh-oh, we're doing it again. Sorry. Don't mind us.

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