Seeing Stars

The big news this week was that the Michelin stars were given to Chicago restaurants. Every food writer, restaurateur, cook, foodie, etc weighed in on their predictions, and of course, the fallout. For chefs, garnering Michelin stars is a pretty big deal—it’s a helluva recognition that for so long we looked across the pond at.

I’m half Marco Pierre White and half Abraham Maslow on this. Maslow deemed it important for a psyche to have a sense of belonging in our development. The respect of others and the confidence instilled by stars is nice—I’d be lying if I stated that it wouldn’t be nice to be recognized that way. Maybe we can urge the inspectors to ride the “marathon” 26 miles outside of the city to our humble abode, or maybe not.

This is where the Marco Pierre White comes into play. Marco infamously gave back his stars almost in an act of perceived defiance. For me, the why behind the action is debatable, but the rebellious chef in me romanticizes it as a “who needs your stars anyway” stance. We as professionals know what we are putting out if we are honest with ourselves. I’m confident that we are putting out a great product 95% of the time. However, as we grow and develop in this restaurant, we have slip-ups where mistakes are made. I can’t stand when they happen, but I also reconcile with the fact that this cook will learn from this and be better for it. We are on a journey towards a destination named perfection that won’t ever be met. Thus, a critic giving me a star doesn’t necessary validate anything to me so much so as it does to the public at large. HOWEVER, Marco was able to build his career based upon those stars in the first place, so you tell me how necessary they are. I for one would love to be in the position where I could give them back, though I don’t know if I would.

For Chicago, collectively the outpouring of star love was minimal at best. Quite a few gripes have been expressed, while others are grateful and overjoyed. To the ones that didn’t, get over it. I think now the challenge has been thrown down. Dig in that much harder and push yourselves to get better. Don’t complain—that’s the worst. I’m the type of person where if you say I can’t, I say watch me. Use it as a motivational tool. I guarantee if chefs take that approach to drive to get better that the results will show next year—this area has some talented folks working in the kitchens. For the ones that received such high praise—congrats, now you have to feed the beast. The cycle will only continue.

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