From the beginning of history, recognition is among the most desired element by humans. Very few Men and Women struggled every breath to become what others never even dreamt of. This desire to be at the top of their game gave birth to Oscar’s, Nobel Prize and Michelin Star. Yes, the Michelin, a company commonly recognized as the rubber tire manufacturer and a good one too. But what is the relation between tires and them being awarding Michelin Stars to Restaurants. None what so ever till the company founders Andre Michelin and his brother Edourad came up with a brand promotion strategy. They published a guide for limited number of motorist in France back in 1900 so that the brand could be recognized when tires are needed for the cars. The Michelin Guide was given free of cost and had all the info a motor car owner may need at any time, including list of eateries in different areas of France. With years passing and Michelin evolving, it became more like a prestigious list categorizing eateries with 1, 2 or 3 stars. The stars and the race to have highest number (3 stars) for a restaurant evolved from a dream to passion and later to obsession. As always, the obsession has taken its sweet toll on some of the strongest chef in culinary history. I,m talking about names like JOËL ROBUCHON, Marco Pierre White, Gordon Ramsay, Thomas Keller and Heston Blumenthal. Albert Roux and Michel Roux operated Le Gavroche, UK’s first restaurant to win 3 Michelin stars. Now here is an interesting bit about Marco Pierre, protégé of Roux Brothers at La Gavroche, was the youngest ever till today to win 3 Michelin stars by 1995. After 5 years he announced that he is giving his stars back, which Michelin reject by saying, ‘You cannot return the stars’. ‘To win a star it was rare, to win 2 stars it was rarer and to be told that you have won 3 stars, it was the end of my race’ Pierre said during a TV interview.
Does the recognition push a person in a position to put a gun to his head and shoot himself dead. Yes, it does and this is what 3 Michelin Stars did to Bernard Loiseau on 24th February 2003. The pressure to keep those rounded petal flower shaped stars with him forever got him to a point where he just could not carry on any more. The little red book, only considers a person worthy at the time when every single detail of every dish is at the top. There is no room for error at any time. Chefs work under other Michelin star chefs for years, just to get noticed by Michelin. Anonymous Michelin inspectors go from one restaurant to the other un announced and sit all by themselves on a table. It would be quite frankly, not justified if I use the term enjoy their meal as I seriously doubt that.
For a chef, hard work does not stop at just getting recognition but it effort gets escalated for keeping the stars to their name. The anxiety gets higher and higher with every day passing to the 31st December of every year, till the little red book is sent across with the names and numbers of stars in front of them. As the whole idea of giving stars to creativity goes beyond the acceptable capacity for some of us. The culinary world is evolving and there is no sky to it. There was a time when cooking for chef was a passion and now with independent bodies judging the creativity of culinary gurus, things are getting a nightmare-ish turn to it. Michelin never intended for stakes to go so high but things have gone beyond recognition. It’s about keeping the status quo and keep shining. Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky!!!
Contributed by Jehanzeb A Khan who’s alternative ego is that of The Bearded Chef. He loves cooking and cigars and has a jazzy wit!
09 Oct 2018