Story and photos by Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling Gourmet TM
Copyright all rights reserved
The inimitable and incomparable Travelling Gourmet TM tells you about the…
MICHELIN Guide awards that are upon us. It ain’t over until the fat Michelin Man sings…
A BOOST for Singapore’s culinary scene?? Or not… In Hong Kong there were many rumours and tales of skullduggery and underhand dealings and corruption in the awarding of Michelin Stars to Hong Kong restaurants and small eateries from my reliable sources…Let us hope in sunny Singapore that the CPIB (Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau) does not need to be called in to investigate…As I have said to my good friend, talented Chef Jonathan Kinsella of Bistro Moderne Daniel Boulud in Marina Bay… Sands (one of my favourite restaurants): A great Chef does not need Michelin Etoiles (stars). All he or she needs are people who love his or her ( how I detest being politically correct; leave out the she and I am a misogynist) food and keep coming back for more! That is a great Chef capisch!
Post Script: …and will the restaurants that get Michelin Stars proceed to jack up their prices to exploit their success??? Yes, mes amis, there is big money to be made when you get the coveted “Macaron”. However, that will be bad for the lovers of good food n’est pas? Later on, if the Chefs and restaurants lose their stars …will they take a free fall jump from a high HDB block without a Paracommander parachute? The concept of “loss of face” is very important in Asian society…Chefs in France have committed suicide when they lose their Michelin Stars…Time will tell. Incidentally there is NO such thing as a Michelin Star Chef. The Michelin Stars are awarded to the restaurant.
History of how a Tyre company moved into the Food business! SURREAL!
In 1900 the tyre manufacturers Andre Michelin and his brother Edouard published the 1st edition of a guide specially for French motorists. There were less than 3,000 cars in France. This was the two brothers’ cunning plan to boost car sales and so directly increase tyre sales! Nearly 35,000 copies were printed and given FREE to motorists. Inside there was useful Information for motorists included maps, instructions for repairing and changing tyres of course, lists of car mechanics, hotels plus petrol stations. In 1904 the brothers published a similar guide for Belgium.
The guide was given away free until 1920. It appeared that André Michelin when visiting a tyre merchant, was shocked to see copies of the guide being used to hold up a workbench. Believing that “Man only truly respects what he pays for,” the Michelin brothers decided to charge a price for the guide. In 1954 it cost 750 Francs (about US$2.15).
In 1926, Stars were awarded for fine dining establishments. Initially, there was only a single star awarded. In 1931, the hierarchy of zero, one, two, and three stars was started. Finally, In 1936, the criteria for the starred rankings were published: The Stars are like flowers with 6 petals. Chefs call them “Macarons”
- : “A very good restaurant in its category” (Une très bonne table dans sa catégorie)
- : “Excellent cooking, worth a detour” (Table excellent, mérite un détour)
- : “Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey” (Une des meilleures tables, vaut le voyage).
In 1931 the cover of the guide was changed from blue to red, and has remained so. in all subsequent editions. During WW2, publication was suspended, but in 1944, at the request of the Allies Military Forces, the 1939 guide to France was specially reprinted for military use. Why? Simply because its maps were judged the best and most up-to-date available to help the Allies take back occupied France from the evil Nazis. Publication of the annual guide resumed on 16 May 1945, a week after Victory in Europe Day!
On the plus side Chefs like my friends Douglas Tay of Osia and German Chef Lorenz Hoja of Le Atelier de Joeel Robuchon get the recognition for their hard work and dedication to their calling. I say: BRAVO! Well deserved. If you do not have a love for your craft…you cannot last long as a Chef or a Commis or whatever. It is a tough job but somebody has to do it, and those who are really good at it deserve our APPRECIATION! Joeel Robouchon’s haute cuisine Restaurant helmed by slim and trim Executive Chef Mikael Mikaelidis won 3 “macarons” in the Michelin Guide Awards 2016 for Singapore! C’est magnifique!
Sabrage a Sekt
I just had dinner at Le Atelier de Joeel (extra e is not a mis-spelling but the equivalent of the Umlaut) Robouchon recently after the MG (MIchelin Guide) Award and it is consistently good. Chef Lorenz’s hors d’ouevre of Foie Gras Rolled in to a cylinder was outstanding in flavour and presentation! Another MEATY dish is the Carnivore’s delight of flavoursome and supremely satisfying Pork Spare Rib with an “al dente” bite …mmmmm!
The well plated Foie Gras Cylinders are fabulous!
J’adore Chef Lorenz’s Dessert of Forest Berries with Raspberry Sauce poured a la table…the green lattice is made of sugar and is edible!
Now 6 years since it first opened in Resorts World Sentosa, Le Atelier de Joeel Robouchon is one of only 411 restaurants with “2 Michelin Stars”in the world. Lorenz was jolly happy as I did the Sabrage a Champagne with a Geldermann Sekt Jahrgang 2012 from Germany to celebrate the award of two Macarons! I did it with the help of my faithful “friend”, “Mackie Messer” named after the famous Opera by Kurt Weill, ,,Die dreigroschen Oper”. The Restaurant Manager, Mikael, told me how his “pere” (father) who was in the French Navy, did a Sabrage with his navy sabre once in their home. The cork and annulus shot out, hit the wall and richocheted back to hit his father’s forehead right between the eyes.
“He never did it again!”, Mikael exclaimed laughing mischeviously. My “Sabrage a Sekt” was more successful. The cork and annulus shot out like a 7.65mm bullet from 007’s Walther PPK pistol…The bubbly Sekt flowed freely and we toasted to the success of Lorenz, his Team and Le Atelier de Joeel Robouchon, Un grand moment!
Modest and skilful Chef de Cuisine Lorenz Hoja and The Travelling Gourmet TM
ALL THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED BY THE PERSONS INTERVIEWED ARE THEIR OWN OPINIONS AND NOT NECESSARILY THE OPINIONS OF THE TRAVELLING GOURMET TM
I have been getting Feedback and interviewing people in the Food and Beverage industry for their candid views. Many gave their candid views but many also did not want to be named for obvious reasons. One courageous lady after my own heart, Karen of The Travelling C.O.W. said frankly, “Some of the awardees I think do not really deserve so many Michelin Stars…and there seems to be a bias towards restaurants in the Resorts World Sentosa like Joel Robuchon and Le Atelier de Joel Robuchon. I think…the Atelier is better than the fine dining which is rubbish. As for a hawker doing only ONE dish on the menu getting a Michelin Star…” the “Power-Frau” owner of The Travelling C.O.W (Chef on Wheels) , she shrugged her shoulders and grimaced! 😦
Oxford Historian castigates Michelin’s imperialist leanings…
A rather refreshing take on the Michelin Guide, henceforth referred to as “MG” (very lawyer-like ha! ha!) is an Oxford University Historian, who is also a gourmet and wine connoisseur.
I asked Ms. M, who speaks fluent French, “So what is your take on the Michelin Guide Awards for Singapore?”
Ms M, who dines frequently at Michelin Starred restaurants from Strasbourg to Berlin, replied earnestly, pulling no punches,
“To be frank, Michelin is a colonialist and imperialistic imposition of Western cultural norms and tastes on the world; in particular the French view of the world and what constitutes good food. I am happy that the MG Singapore features 2 Hawkers with one Star each. Every cuisine is different. Who is the MG to judge and say that only their French “cuisine traditionelle” is the best? It smacks of imperialist arrogance…Certainly, Hawkers may only offer ONE dish instead of a whole menu of hors d’oeuvre, soup, salad, main course, fish, fromage (cheese), dessert and so on. That said, IF the hawker dish is really good and done in a unique way, notwithstanding that that may not be in line with traditional French cooking techniques and ingredients; why not award them a Michelin star? I think it is good for Singapore and it shows a more progressive aspect of the MG to do this here! I mean, award Michelin Stars to hawkers.” As Ms. M concluded her passionate diatribe she laughed heartily tongue-in-cheek!
Cheerful Ms. M continued, “For restaurants…I am fond of dining in Le Atelier. The cuisine is consistently good and it deserves the 2 Michelin Stars!”
Ach so! Einverstanden.
D’accord mes amis! She has a point…who taught the French the use of la Forketta or the fork (le fourchette in French)…Catherine de Medici of Italy! Catherine also introduced many Italian dishes into French cuisine…think about it…French cuisine has its roots in Italian cuisine. Kein hochnaessig werden bitte…One of Life’s little ironies.
Personally, for me as The Travelling Gourmet TM, a Hawker stall no matter how outstanding the food, is not a “restaurant” in the pure definition of the noun. Do not get me wrong, please! I love Hawker food and dine at hawkers stalls too. Hell, I love all food, Hawker Food, Michelin Star restaurants, Trattoria, Pizzeria, Street Food on the streets of Bangkok and Koh Samui…as long as it is good I will eat it and appreciate the time and effort put into making it. Nonetheless…
My friend, American Mr. D, who works for an important US multi-national company, and travels widely to places like Afghanistan and Pakistan, feels the same way, “Perhaps STB has pressured the Michelin Guide to include Hawkers for the very first time, because the STB is worried that hawkers are a dying trade. This then will make Hawkers glamorous and encourage young guys to go into the business…”
Chef Paul Lee of Triple V Bistro in Bedok North shrugged his shoulders and commented with a wry grin, “I don’t think you can award a Michelin Star to a hawker. Michelin Stars should be for full service restaurants with a full menu…”
Politics is ueberall (everywhere)…
Obviously there are political elements in the MG and its choice of restaurants to award…Just see the original raison d’etre for th creatioj of the MG in the first place. It was to increase car sales thereby increasing TYRE SALES! Big Money is involved too and sponsorship…the MG is big business! Some detractors, especially some renowned Italian Chefs who shall be nameless…lament the fact that there are NO Italian ristoranti with a Michelin Star in Singapore! Per que? WHY? Is Italian inferior to hawker food??? There are those too who criticize my friend, Chef Joshua Brown of CUT in MBS, say scathingly, “What can go wrong with top class, top dollar beef? You have to be a very bad Chef to f___ up a top cut of Wagyu!”
I personally think that Joshua is a jolly good Chef! Even the best cuts need skilfull handling to bring out their best flavour profile.
So there it goes, “Professional JEALOUSY” and envy perhaps??? Or is it something else?
It is up to each and every one of us to be our own Michelin Judge and form our own opinions! It is a free country after all. As I tell many people who ask me in my capacity as a Wine Expert and International Wine Judge, that frequent question, “What is the BEST wine?” My answer is invariably the same, “The best wine for you, Sir (or Madam) is the wine that YOU like you drink!” “Label Drinkers” and wine snobs and poseurs, eat your heart out ha! ha!It is the same with food.
My good friend. a Medical Specialist gave me this quote: The first bite is heavenly, the last bite is Gluttony! Overeat and you may look like the fattie Michelin man!
C’est une grand habilite que de savoir cacher son habilite… 🙂
Dr. Michael Lim is The Travelling Gourmet TM
PPS: I do not like the word Gourmand in the MG Bib Gourmand awards. Pourquoi? If you have studied the French language, you will know that Gourmand is a glutton who is greedy and eats HUGE amounts of food, BUT a GOURMET is a person who enjoys and values and appreciates good food and wines without over indulging. Vive le difference!
Incidentally, mein guter Freund Chef Lorenz Hoja in 2019 told me, “I have had enough of fine dining.” Chef Lorenz is now the Regional Chef for Accor.
The Travelling Gourmet’s Cooking Show where he demonstrates the “Sabre a Champagne” at the most expensive Tang Sok Kiar Suite in the Singapore Marriott Hotel
Sabre a Champagne is always said to be “very easy” especially by those who have never done it. Once I had to have 4 stitches on my finger so please do not try this at home.