Why Africa doesn’t have a Miche­lin Star – Part 1

Zambian Business Times - - LIFESTYLE -

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.

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