The world’s best-known guide to fine dining, the Michelin Guide, is returning to Los Angeles and expanding statewide this summer, and with a healthy cash infusion from California’s tourism board.
Michelin and Visit California announced the collaboration earlier this month which will expand the Guide’s reach outside of the Bay Area to cover more of California’s diverse food landscape, including restaurants in counties like Monterey, Orange, Sacramento, San Diego, Santa Barbara and yes, Los Angeles too. Visit California will pay $600,000 to Michelin for the expansion, which its president and CEO Caroline Beteta told the restaurant newsletter Family Meal would “underwrite the hard costs of expanding the presence of Michelin inspectors throughout the state,” though she did not elaborate on exactly what the money would fund. There are no other American cities or states whose tourism boards give money to Michelin, though South Korea and Thailand both pay annual fees to create each year’s guide.
L.A.’s history with the guide is fraught, to say the least. Michelin began publishing the guide for L.A. in 2007 only to stop two years later amidst the backdrop of the Great Recession when most Americans cut back on eating out. The late L.A. Times food critic Jonathan Gold, who made a name for himself by focusing on lesser-known, immigrant-owned restaurants instead of the fancier, white tablecloth places one might associate with Michelin stars, slammed the Guide in a 2008 article in L.A. Weekly, calling it “appalling, ignorant of the way Angelenos eat, reading as if it was put together by a team too timid to venture further than a few minutes from their Beverly Hills hotel.” In a 2010 interview with Esquire Magazine, then-Michelin Guide director Jean-Luc Naret only added fuel to the fire when he said “"the people in Los Angeles are not real foodies. They are not too interested in eating well but just in who goes to which restaurant and where they sit."
Are you looking forward to the Michelin Guide’s return to Los Angeles and expansion statewide? Does it matter to you whether the tourism board is paying Michelin for the expansion? If you are a restaurant owner or manager, how much importance do you attribute to Michelin stars? As a diner, are you more likely to eat at a restaurant with a Michelin star? How do you think the Michelin Guide will fit in a city like Los Angeles with a complex food landscape that is home to more hole-in-the-wall, mom-and-pop joints than it is to world-renowned fine dining establishments?
We reached out to Michelin Guides international director Gwendal Poullennec as well as Visit California president and CEO Caroline Beteta to join us, but neither were available to join us at the time we requested.