Has the entire city of Los Angeles breathed a collective sigh over the irrelevancy of the Michelin Guide yet? On July 18, the international publication owned by a tire company, which only recently returned to Los Angeles through a statewide California guide in 2019, issued just one new star for the entire city, awarded to Heritage in Long Beach.
Heritage, owned by chef Phillip Pretty and sister Lauren Pretty, is the first Michelin star for the city of Long Beach, a huge get for Southern California and big recognition for Phillip Pretty, who previously cooked at Restauration and Fundamental LA. The guide lauded Heritage’s tasting menu format and sourcing from its farm: “On offer is a single multicourse tasting (priced quite reasonably) that highlights top-notch ingredients, including produce sourced from their nearby farm.”
There were no additional two-star restaurants and still no three-star restaurants for LA, Orange, and other Southern California counties with the exception of San Diego, whose three-star restaurant Addison retained its top status. Otherwise, the July 18 ceremony seemed to promote its green star designation, which denotes a sustainability-oriented restaurant that serves as “true role models of environmentally conscious gastronomy.” In addition to Heritage, Providence was the only other Los Angeles restaurant to receive a green star in 2023, joining Osteria Mozza and Chi Spacca.
In nearby Oceanside, Valle received a Michelin star with chef Roberto Alcocer at the helm serving modern Mexican cuisine at the Mission Pacific Hotel, while four restaurants in Northern California received a star: Nari and Aphotic in San Francisco; Chez Noir in Carmel; and Auro in Calistoga. Six stars for a state of 40-plus million people and some of the best food on the planet. Two restaurants did lose their one-star status in Los Angeles, Phenakite, which has been closed since last year; and Hatchet Hall, whose chef Wes Whitsell departed earlier this year.
One other distinction did come to Los Angeles this year: the Michelin Exceptional Cocktails award, which was given to Austin Hennelly of Kato, whose refined but innovative drink menu has garnered plenty of attention since its introduction in early 2022. Kato’s chef Jon Yao stated earlier that he and the team had hoped for more than its single-star status, but the Downtown LA restaurant was not promoted to higher than one star. Otherwise, the guide awarded only one new star for the entire county, the most populous county in the nation, and one jam-packed with stellar — often singular — dining destinations. Earlier this year, new Bib Gourmands were announced for places like Carnes Asadas Pancho Lopez and Cobi’s, but the paucity of even those awards makes it seem like the guide is less relevant than ever in LA.
Maybe it was a down year for the kinds of restaurants that Michelin tends to focus on: pricey, French/European, Japanese, or otherwise “chef-driven” places that international travelers are likely to seek out. After a fairly tepid showing of LA’s restaurants, one wonders how much longer before the city’s dining public realizes that the reason for Michelin’s departure in 2010 hasn’t changed, namely that Los Angeles’s dining scene just isn’t compatible with the totemic fine-dining restaurants it tends to favor. Recall that the former Michelin director once said people in LA “are not too interested in eating well.” It turns out Angelenos eat the way they do because they have access to a rich swathe of cuisines at diverse price points, and maybe, more importantly, don’t care too much about what some tire company thinks about Los Angeles’s food.