The Michelin Guide, the famous restaurant rating system and guide with coverage in many of the world’s most important food cities, is coming back to Los Angeles after a nine year hiatus and months of speculation, reports the LA Times. The guide, which first began rating restaurants in LA and awarding stars in 2008, has grown tremendously in influence and popularity over the years, most recently expanding to Washington D.C. in 2017.
Michelin is announcing a new guide on Tuesday, March 5 in conjunction with Visit California, the state’s tourism board, at an event at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento. Michelin plans to publish a guide for all of California, which would include Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, Sacramento, and Central Coast destinations like Santa Barbara and Monterey. Since 2006, Michelin has published a guide and awarded stars in the San Francisco Bay Area, covering outlying areas like Napa, Sonoma, and the Peninsula. Michelin will no longer publish a standalone Bay Area version as the existing stars will get rolled into one big California guide.
Los Angeles, as the largest city in California and the country’s second largest metropolitan area, was always a glaring oversight in Michelin’s reach. In an interview with Esquire, former Michelin Guide director Jean-Luc Naret 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.” The Michelin Guide originally began publishing guides for Los Angeles and Las Vegas in 2008 before it ceased in 2010.
Back in the early 2010s, there weren’t as many fine dining temples and fancy eating establishments in Los Angeles that warranted star status, at least in Michelin’s eyes. Since then, a large number of tasting menus and upscale restaurants have opened despite the lack of a Michelin Guide. Some, like Scratch Bar and its sister restaurant Silver Bough, which recently opened with a $550 a person price tag, seemed designed to appeal to the Michelin Guide in an attempt to attain three-star status. Fine dining-oriented chefs like Curtis Stone, who runs Gwen and Maude, have wanted the Michelin Guide to return to LA for years.
The Michelin Guide first appeared in 1900 as a free booklet from the French tire company to help motorists find places to eat and stay in Europe. Over the decades, the guide grew influence in Europe due to the prestige of its star system, which starts with one and goes up to three as its top rating. Even a one-star restaurant was considered highly decorated as a “very good restaurant in its category.” The two-star mark denotes a restaurant is “worthy of a detour” while the three-star is worth a “special journey.” To think so much prestige started out as a way to get people to buy more tires.
In recent decades, the fabled dining guide has turned into a de facto standard around the world, with three stars awarded to restaurants from Japan and Hong Kong to Germany and South Korea. As LA’s stature in the global culinary scene continues to increase, restaurants like Somni, Dialogue, and Vespertine have heralded a shift to an even higher aspiration in food (and the prices to match). However, when the guide rated places in Los Angeles, it never awarded a restaurant its highest three-star mark.
Michelin will likely announce star winners and release the California guide as a published book later this year. Maybe LA will be the first city in the world to land a Michelin-starred taco truck.