Michelin’s latest awards run the gamut from predictable to innovative. Plus—put down that pail and back away from those chickens!by Alex Renton / February 24, 2010 / Leave a comment
Edinburgh’s michelin men
The 2010 Michelin Guide has made hearts swell in Edinburgh, where I live: we now have five Michelin stars, with another just across the water in Fife, at the Peat Inn, near Cupar. Outside London, no other city in these islands has as many: Dublin has four and Birmingham has three, Manchester and Glasgow have none. Don’t think of moving here, though: we’re full up.
Chefs respect Michelin like no other award system because of its rigour and history (the star rating was launched in 1933). A Michelin star is the only bouquet they will die for—in 2003 Bernard Loiseau, chef and owner of Burgundy’s La Côte d’Or, took his own life amid rumours he would lose one of his three stars. But this obsession is not necessarily a boon for the diner. Matthew Norman, the Guardian’s restaurant critic, blames it for the many irritating meals served by chefs imitating the “molecular gastronomy” techniques used by Heston Blumenthal or Ferran Adria.
Many in the food world groan at Michelin’s conservatism—until the guide pins a medal on a spot they have championed. They say the Guide Rouge remains absurdly male; that it is passionless and restricted by the “scientific” judging system, with its presumption of absolute standards in cooking. And, notoriously, its biases towards food that is French, expensive and classical.
They have a point—two years ago, it was discovered that only two of the 12 inspectors working on the first Hong Kong and Macau Michelin Guide were Chinese. This year’s headline award in Britain was—boringly—yet another star for Alain Ducasse (at the Dorchester). This apostle of modern haute cuisine now has 19 for his chain of some 30 restaurants across the world. Certainly four of the five (all male) chefs who now hold stars in Edinburgh are working in the French tradition. Although Tom Kitchin, in Leith, has localised his classical training, celebrating the Scottish seasons and championing our game and fish.
Still, I find Michelin more useful than guides that are composed of punters’ reviews, like toptable.com or Zagat. If we relied on democratic consensus we’d all be eating at Pizza Hut. So I went for lunch at Edinburgh’s newest Michelin entry: 21212.
Paul Kitching’s restaurant opened in May 2009. It occupies a whole house on Edinburgh’s grandest terrace and cost £4.5m to do up, including bedrooms. Inside, amid the satin and the gilt, contemplating…