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Posted by on Mar 5, 2009 in Economy | 1 comment

Michelin Stars Dimmed by the Global Economic Crisis?

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Those of you who can still afford to do so, probably consult one of the the Michelin Red Guides to select your favorite restaurant when traveling abroad or when visiting New York, Las Vegas or Los Angeles.

And those of you who have been untouched by our current “lean times,” probably look for those restaurants with a three-star rating, indicating that the restaurant offers “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”

The Michelin stars are awarded very sparingly and are coveted (or were coveted—see below) more than gold by restaurateurs.

For example, according to Wikipedia, in the Michelin UK and Ireland 2004 guide, out of 5,500 entries, there are 98 with one star (“a very good restaurant in its category”), 11 with two stars (“excellent cooking, worth a detour”), and only 3 with three stars.

Another example: The 2009 Michelin Guide to New York City, 2009, includes only four three-star restaurants, seven two-star restaurants and 31 one-star restaurants.

For the gourmets among us, these are the 2009 Michelin New York Red Guide three-star establishments in New York:

Jean Georges Manhattan Upper West Side
Le Bernardin Manhattan Midtown West
Masa Manhattan Midtown West
Per Se Manhattan Midtown West

The Michelin Guide celebrated its 100th French edition Monday.

But the celebration may be somewhat muted by the worldwide economic crisis.

The Huffington Post reports in “Michelin 100th Restaurant Guide Released Amid Calls For Creative Ways To Cope With Crisis“:

The coveted Michelin stars can make or break a restaurant. But so can an economic crisis.

“It’s not caviar every day,” the Michelin guide’s director said Monday as he urged France’s great chefs to invent new ways of keeping customers.

Some of the world’s best restaurants are losing business, particularly from corporate clients, and are having to offer cheaper menus, even at the top end, Jean-Luc Naret told The Associated Press.

And, back to my “The Michelin stars are awarded very sparingly and… were coveted…more than gold by restaurateurs,” the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad reports today that “A restaurant in the southern Dutch city of Maastricht has decided to give back its prestigious Michelin star because it’s bad for business.”

How can that be?

Well, the owners of the Maastricht restaurant, “In de’n Dillegaard,” which received its Michelin star in 2004, claim that “many people associate Michelin with expensive, posh and formal,” and “It creates certain expectations. We had been thinking for a while about going back to our roots, to a less formal atmosphere. The financial crisis has hastened our decision.”

As the Handelsblad points out, most restaurants would kill for a Michelin star, but the global financial crisis is having serious consequences. Some are interesting and unexpected, such as Michèl and Suzan Kagenaar, owners of In de’n Dillegaard, sending their hard-won, coveted Michelin star back to France, as they claim that the Michelin star has become a “stigma” for their business.

Bon appétit, if you can afford it.

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