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The 2020 Michelin Guide Is Still On For Los Angeles, Despite the Raging Pandemic

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Inspectors compiled all the info they needed before the pandemic began, they say

Luca Dai Pra of Somni
A Michelin-level meal at the now-closed Somni.
Wonho Frank Lee
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

It looks like the 2020 version of the California Michelin Guide is still on for this year, despite the raging pandemic and economic uncertainty that has caused hundreds, if not thousands, of restaurants to close across the state. Per the San Francisco Chronicle, reps for the international dining guide say the plan is to still release its little red book sometime later this year, based on information that was gathered before the pandemic began in earnest.

According to the Chronicle:

Inspectors who review the restaurants completed their fieldwork for the 2020 California edition before the pandemic began. That means ratings in the influential guide, which is known to give businesses huge bumps in sales, will be based on dining experiences that have not been available since March

That’s quite the stance for the well-known publication, which is known throughout the world has a guide to mostly-upscale restaurants with a European or Japanese bent. The guide operates in cities across the globe and rates places based on one, two, or three stars, with the latter relegated to only the most fine dining establishments like Benu, the Restaurant at Meadowood, and the French Laundry. The guide also includes Bib Gourmand and Michelin Plate restaurants, non-starred eateries of distinction, and relies on anonymous inspectors to make the ratings.

The problem is (among many) that the Michelin Guide seems to be content to rely on information gathered before the mandatory closure of restaurants back in March, and well before the current ban on indoor dining. Everything has changed for restaurants in the intervening months as a result of the novel coronavirus, from service issues to health and safety protocols to the food being served. Manresa chef/owner David Kinch, whose restaurant currently has three Michelin stars, has specifically said that he is bowing out of awards contention specifically for his Outstanding Chef nomination from the James Beard Foundation this year, saying on Instagram that “the idea of celebrating achievement — and all that our Manresa team has accomplished — simply does not feel right in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, and the devastation it has pressed upon our chosen métier and industry.”

2019 marked the first year of the Michelin Guide’s return to Southern California in a decade, with stars handed out to prominent restaurants like n/naka, Shibumi, Kali, Providence, and beyond. However some of those standout restaurants, including two-star Somni and one-star Trois Mec, have closed permanently in recent weeks, while others like Kato, Hayato, and Taco Maria have completely switched their business models.

Last year’s all-California guide was released in June, and reps for Michelin told the Chronicle that they have not yet announced a release date for the 2020 guide. California currently has over 625,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with over 11,000 deaths.