The Michelin Guides (French: Guide Michelin, are a series of guide books that have been published by the French tire company Michelin since 1900. The Guide awards up to three Michelin stars for excellence to a select few establishments. The acquisition or loss of a star or stars can have dramatic effects on the success of a restaurant. Michelin also publishes the Green Guides, a series of general guides to cities, regions, and countries. The hole in the wall, is that little place you find in just about every city, region and country. It's the place that makes great food, likely has great service, but not much ambiance.
This blog is basically about the difference between good food and bad food. You would think it's a pretty easy thing to differentiate, right? Leave it up to humans to complicate things with accolades and awards like the Michelin star system, and other such nonsense.
Before I get into this, here is my simple rule of thumb when evaluating a restaurant for google reviews, of which I do many in my travels. In this order, I evaluate any restaurant; service, food and ambiance. Your first impression is always service, this is of course after you have found the place, the facade may place some influence on your expectation for sure, but shouldn't be the driving force of a positive or negative review.
Let's skip forward a bit because I have already covered this topic of the "Big Three", in more detail in a previous blog. A number of years ago, while participating in trials for the Culinary Olympics I had a conversation with one of the coaches for team Germany, and this is how it went. Everybody was talking about high end cuisine, who's the best and why. This German fellow leaned across and said, there's only two kinds of food, good and bad. That simple, good hamburger, bad hamburger, good fries, bad fries...you get the picture.
So the question is, what's the difference between Michelin, and the Hole in the Wall? let's check with an expert!
Marco Pierre White
Famed for being the youngest and first British chef to achieve three Michelin stars. At the height of his career Marco quit the kitchen and gave Michelin back his stars. So, what drove Marco to pack it all in when fans and food lovers alike wanted to bask in his culinary delights for years to come?
"If I go to a three-star Michelin, I want to be sitting in that restaurant and the man whose name, or lady whose name, is above the door is in the kitchen cooking my dinner,'' he says.
"Why would I want to go to a restaurant where the head chef is over the other side of the world filming?''
In 2013 chef Julio Biosca returned the Michelin star held by his restaurant, Casa Julio, in Valencia, Spain, not because he’d lost faith in the Michelin rating system but because the star, he felt, meant that he could no longer innovate. He was tired of his complicated tasting menu and he wanted to do something simpler, so he gave back his star. The following year, chef Frederick Dhooge, in East Flanders, Belgium, also returned his star because he wanted to be able to cook simpler food, like fried chicken (not considered a “star-worthy dish”), without his customers’ expecting a grand spectacle at his restaurant, ‘t Huis van Lede. And in 2011, Australian chef Skye Gyngell, of Petersham Nurseries Café, in London, called a star “a curse” because of the high expectations it raises among customers. She gave hers back, too, after diners complained about the dirt floors of her “shabby chic” restaurant.
You can be sure, in most cases, that the Chef cooking your dinner at a Michelin restaurant is not actually in the kitchen, more likely out promoting it on TV or a film set...TRUTH! At the Hole in the Wall, it's likely the chef/owner is in the kitchen preparing your meal...GAURANTEED!
Maybe the Hole in the Wall is being a little hard on all the restaurants that fall in between Michelin and the later, so let me redeem myself a little. As for myself, I dine out quite a lot due to my nomad like lifestyle. I also cook when I travel; keep an eye out for my Friday post, I'm cooking fish today that I caught in Newfoundland yesterday. So, when I travel, where do eat in terms of restaurants? I tend to prefer the hole in the walls, mainly because they are affordable, good quality and generally the local cuisine. I do venture out from time to time and explore the higher end restaurants as a treat. But even on these few occasions, I do my research and read reviews very closely. To finish, let me say one more little thing. At the end of the day the thing that separates a good restaurant from a poor restaurant is the quality of ingredients the chef is using, and how they are used. Keep it Simple!
Cheers, and have a great week!