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What LA Chefs Are Saying About the Return of the Michelin Guide

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Most chefs are thrilled, though some are cautious about how the guide would rate LA’s far-ranging scene

Dishes as part of the kaiseki meal at N/Naka in Los Angeles
Dishes as part of the kaiseki meal at N/Naka in Los Angeles
Wonho Frank Lee

The Michelin Guide is coming back to Los Angeles as part of a new edition that will encompass the entire state of California. Following rumors, the news leaked late Monday, and became official this morning. Now LA chefs are reacting. The guide — which began in Europe in 1900, but has expanded rapidly across the world in recent years to include such cities as Seoul, Bangkok, and Washington D.C. — plans its return following a departure from the city in 2010. Some chefs are wondering if this will spark more fine dining restaurants to open. Others are curious how Michelin will deal with LA’s relative dearth of the super expensive, fine dining restaurants it normally recognizes. Below, read a range of responses from local chefs.

Niki Nakayama, N/Naka: “I think Michelin coming back to Los Angeles will lift and inspire the city’s already vibrant restaurant culture to new heights.”

Dave Beran, Dialogue: “Anything that brings awareness to California is better for the dining scene. It’s a little nerve-wrecking since I hadn’t been in the guide since I was working at Alinea. When I was at Next, it wasn’t eligible since the menu changed all the time. But the guide returning to LA is an incredible thing. It just adds validity to all the great things happening here. In such a short window of time, you see all the momentum and notoriety the city has gained. It’s like Chicago in the early 2000s. It’s very cool.”

Phillip Frankland Lee, Scratch Bar, Silver Bough: “Since I was a young cook, it’s always been a dream of mine to one day run a restaurant recognized as being worth a detour or perhaps even a journey, like so many talented chefs that I admire have done. I believe that when they return it will do wonders for the generation of young cooks that are currently in LA — the Michelin stars bring with them an understanding of kitchen culture within the industry. As a young line cook, I remember checking the guide and wanting to work for the chefs who had been recognized for their excellence.

With or without the stars, our teams in Los Angeles and Montecito are going to continue striving to offer the best experience possible each and every service, but the return of the Michelin guide might just help the rest of the world to fully realize what we Angelenos already know, that LA is truly a world class dining city.”

Mei Lin, Nightshade, Top Chef Season 12 winner: “I believe that LA has the most diverse and dynamic food scene in the U.S. It’s one of the main reasons I stayed in LA, and why I wanted to open my first restaurant here. I am really stoked to have Michelin back.”

Ori Menashe, Bestia, Bavel: “I think it will be interesting to see if having the Michelin Guide here will push chefs to open more formal restaurants than Los Angeles is used to seeing.”

Ricardo Zarate, Rosaliné: “I think it will be great to have an international guide come to the city and rate restaurants. I’m wondering if they’ll be changing their style because normally the Michelin Guide focuses on fine dining. I’m very curious about that. LA isn’t a fine dining destination for restaurants, but it’s becoming an amazing food destination in the world. Before, nobody was saying good things about LA’s food scene, but that’s changing. I think it’s becoming one of the best culinary destinations in the world. Having the Michelin Guide is a huge thing but LA is not a fine dining city. It’s more rustic, more international. It’s different. I’m excited to see how they’re going to judge that.”

Teresa Montaño, Otoño: “LA’s ready for it and LA deserves it. We’re the most exciting food city in the world right now. This younger generation of chefs that have come through the ranks in LA have such a unique and free perspective of cooking. We are Jonathan Gold-educated and full of layers of diverse influence. I’m eager to see LA recognized at the Michelin level!”

Royce Burke, Yarrow: “I think that Los Angeles has become the best food city in the country in large part because we aren’t cooking for stars. We cook for our neighbors, our communities, and ourselves. All of us have known it was inevitable for Michelin to come back. They would not maintain credibility as a food travel guide without including what is considered far and wide as the greatest food city in America. To ‘come back’ like this, including us as part of the California guide is so fucking insulting. With the exception of a few chefs no one asked for it or wanted them here. Now they are ‘throwing us a bone’ by including us in their new state wide coverage? Same peeps who said that ‘The people in Los Angeles are not real foodies...they are not too interested in eating well.’”

Steve Samson, Rossoblu: “I’m cautiously optimistic that they’ve adjusted their metrics to better represent what’s relevant in Los Angeles.”

Ray Garcia, Broken Spanish: “Los Angeles has become one of the country’s best places to dine. It is home to many chefs and restaurants that represent and reflect the city’s rich and varied culinary traditions and cultures. It is great to see that Michelin has decided to join in celebrating and recognizing the passion, talent, creativity, and diversity of our city.”

Evan Funke, Felix: “Expected. I welcome the Michelin Guide with open arms. In my opinion it was only a matter of time before the guide recognized that there are serious professionals here dedicated to excellence. Our restaurants may not be opulent and they are completely devoid of white tablecloths but there is serious talent here and it’s goddamn delicious.”

Vartan Abgaryan, 71Above, Yours Truly: “I think it’s big for Los Angeles. We have an incredibly diverse and exciting food scene and it’s important for proud LA chefs who have been cooking in this great city to feel that they are being taken seriously in the food community. I am curious to see how the guide will translate our city’s ethos and attitude into its already existing grading systems. I hope they can honestly capture and understand LA and be successful.”

Aitor Zabala, Somni: “We are glad that Michelin is back in LA and think it’s an amazing addition to this city. There is such diversity in food and culture here, and I look forward to that being celebrated in the new guide.”

Kevin Meehan, Kali: “It’s the highest award a restaurant could really get and a personal lifelong goal. It would also help with business in this competitive and over saturated market.”

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