Why Africa doesn’t have a Michelin Star – Part 1
MICHELIN guides, or Guide Michelin, as they are known in French, are a series of guide books that have been published by the French tyre company, Michelin, for more than a century. The guide is the oldest European hotel and restaurant reference guide, which awards Michelin stars for excellence to a select few establishments. The acquisition or loss of a star can have dramatic effects on the success of a restaurant.
When a Michelin inspector comes to your restaurant, he is entirely anonymous and will give a detailed report on the food, hygiene and service received at your establishment. Receiving a Michelin star is the greatest honour given to a chef or restaurateur in his lifetime. In France, where the guide was first published, each year at the time of publishing, it sparks a media frenzy which has been compared to that of the Oscars or the Grammys. Celebrity Chefs such as Gordon Ramsey have owned restaurants that in the recent past had been awarded and then stripped of two Michelin stars for quality issues, by the committee that sits to award the stars. It was later argued that Mr. Ramsey was not involved in the day to day running of the restaurant as he had licensed it to the London Hotel at the time of the controversy. But such incidences just go to show how prestige a Michelin star rating really is.
France is known as the Culinary Centre of the world and in the early 1900s, two brothers; Edouard and Andre Michelin while travelling the country selling tyres, decided to publish the first edition of a guide for French motorists – the Michelin Guide. The guide was free and provided useful information to motorists, such as maps, tyre repairs, car mechanics listings, hotels and petrol stations throughout France. Over the years, the guide went on to include other countries and a restaurant section. The brothers recruited a team of anonymous inspectors to visit and review restaurants. In 1926, the guide began to award stars for fine dining establishments with a hierarchy from 0 to 3 stars.
1 – Being very good.
2 – Being excellent cooking, worth a detour.
3 – Exceptional cuisine worth a special journey.
The Michelin guide also awards rising stars, an indication that a restaurant has the potential to qualify for a star or an additional star. Restaurants that inspectors fail are not worthy, don’t even make it into the guide, let alone receive a star.
The guide has covered most of Europe over the years, giving out stars in France, Italy, England, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Spain and Portugal. Only as late as 2005 did Michelin produce its first American guide and in 2007 crossed into Asia with a Tokyo guide.
Moving with the times, the guide has a listing for Gastropubs in Ireland, Street food establishments in Asia. But surprisingly, to date, No African Cuisine restaurant in Africa or anywhere else in the world has managed to impress the Michelin Inspectors enough to be given a star. The closest Africa has gotten to being awarded a Michelin star, is through South African Chef – Jan Hendrik Van Der Westhuizen. He owns a restaurant called ‘Jan’ in Nice, France, which combines French and South Africa cooking.
So what is happening to local African cuisine? From Cape to Cairo, all across Africa, our local cuisine is fresh, organic and deliciously served in the most ingenious ways. What needs to be done to get the global foodies community interested in our local cuisine? Africa, particularly Zambia, is bursting with talent in the culinary industry and we are looking for ways to put our local food on the world map. As African Chefs, we would love to see authentic African food being awarded with worldwide recognition. We have plenty of skilled and talented chefs that can turn our local fusion cuisine into fine dining menus.
Isn’t it time a truly authentic, African food restaurant was awarded a Michelin star?
In my next article I will look at the factors considered in awarding Michelin stars and include reviews of some of Africa’s best restaurants to compare and contrast. Know of an African food restaurant that you think deserves a Michelin star? Send me an email, let’s talk and get their story across the globe. You never know who is listening…
Have some new food ideas/recipes or new restaurants/events you would like to share? Let's interact, email me on Abi[email protected] and let's talk all things food.
About the author: Abigail Mbuzi is a foodie. Founder and Motivator. She runs African Sunsets Events, marketing and promotions and is Creator and Executive Producer of the Mastercook Tv shows, Editor in Chief of the Mastercook recipe magazine and teaches cooking classes for kids and adults at the Mastercook academy in Lusaka, Zambia.