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- Michelin is awarding stars to more informal restaurants, according to luxury restaurant group D&D London’s CEO.
- But Michelin’s method for assessing stars hasn’t changed. Instead, simple restaurants are improving their offerings, and it’s attracting foodies who seek authenticity and quality.
- Michelin is recognizing this shift in luxury dining, where the experience is becoming less fancy and more fun.
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Walk into a Michelin-starred restaurant today and you may find rustic tables and diners in sneakers instead of white linen tablecloths and waiters in coattails.
Michelin stars have long been associated with gourmet restaurants – but the brand’s reach has expanded, Des Gunewardena, CEO and chairman of UK luxury restaurant group D&D London, told Business Insider: “Michelin has embraced the overall trend through the years of restaurants becoming less formal, more social venues rather than formal, starchy temples of gastronomy.”
Gunewardena is behind more than 40 restaurants worldwide, which have been frequented by celebrities and royalty throughout the years, from Elizabeth Taylor and Princess Diana to Naomi Campbell and Sir Elton John.
That portfolio includes Michelin-starred restaurant Angler in London and most recently, queensyard, a restaurant in New York City’s new $25 billion Hudson Yards neighborhood – the most expensive real-estate development in US history.
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“You don’t have to have serious waiters and hushed rooms to enjoy great food,” Gunewardena said. “Even very informal restaurants in Shoreditch [an artsy area in London akin to New York City’s East Village] are packed to the rafters with raucous young customers enjoying fantastic food [and] are now being awarded Michelin stars.”
This evolution reflects diners’ evolving demands – they’re moving away from artifice and seeking quality food served with informality, fun, and authenticity, he previously told Business Insider.
Restaurants are stepping up their game for the informal foodie
Restaurants are catering to this new customer, who’s looking to pair good food with a good time.
“Diners today, wherever they live, are looking for good quality, memorable, and authentic experiences when they eat out – and this is generally pushing up the standard of cuisine found across the board,” Gwendal Poullennec, the international director of the Michelin Guides, told Business Insider. “With this in mind, the level of cooking found in traditionally more simple establishments (pubs, brasseries, taco restaurants, hawker stalls etc.) is improving to cater for these more discerning foodies.”
The Michelin Guide has adapted to this shift and is recognizing these establishments, wherever they are around the world, he added. He cited the 2019 Michelin Guide California as an example, thanks to the state’s visible signature “high-quality, yet laid-back dining ambiance.”
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In fact, Los Angeles is getting a Michelin guide again, nine years after the guide’s former director said people in LA aren’t “interested in eating well,” Business Insider’s Katie Warren reported.
Ultimately, the shift is creating a new kind of luxury dining experience in which fine dining is less about the fancy trappings and more about the overall quality.
“Chefs today are becoming more and more innovative in what they create in the kitchen and they want to reflect this creativity and innovation in the total dining experience they offer to their customers,” Poullennec said. “This can not only be seen in the way their staff are dressed, the furnishings and tableware, but also in the locations that they choose for their restaurants – which could for example be very simple, industrial spaces.”
It’s important to note that the Michelin method of assessing restaurants for stars hasn’t changed, only focusing on the food on the plate based on five different criteria, according to Poullennec: quality of the produce, cooking skills, harmony of flavors, personality of chef expressed in the cuisine, and consistency over time and across the entire menu.