For a chef, gaining a Michelin star can make a career, paving the way for further investment in their restaurant and brand. Conversely, losing a star can break it - by effecting negative changes to sales and profitability by up to 50 percent, according to Cornell.
Stories of chefs chasing stars are fairly notorious in the cut-throat culinary world, with some chefs even going so far as to make the “Walk to Canossa” - a reference to King Henry IV humbling himself before the pope - meaning they go to Michelin directly to state their restaurant’s case.
The pressure that exists for chefs to maintain their stars can be intense as well, and along with the various controversies mentioned above, there has been tragedy associated with the guide as well.
As Vanity Fair reports, the 52-year-old French chef Bernard Loiseau killed himself when rumors began circulating that Michelin would remove one of his restaurant’s three stars. The article also shares that when celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay lost a star at his London restaurant, he reportedly cried, as did the staff at Daniel, chef Daniel Boulud’s New York restaurant, when it had one of its stars removed in 2014.
Related Article: From the road to the table: Understanding the Michelin Guide
A newly-starred Italian restaurant in Geneva
But newly-starred restaurants are immune to such stories of suffering and intense pressure, and simply find themselves reveling in the exciting news of their achievement. Geneva’s La Bottega restaurant opened in June 2015, just five months before Michelin announced it would be given one star in the 2016 Switzerland guide. The restaurant’s chefs, Paulo Airudo and Francesco Gasbarro, told hosco that they learned the news of their star from a German food blog very early on the morning of October 7, and not directly from Michelin.
A 6 AM post on the La Bottega Twitter account, written in both French and Italian, reveals their excitement:
Hourra! Notre première #étoile #Michelin à #Genève! (Hurray! Our first #Michelin #star in #Geneva!”)
Airudo notes that they tried to call Michelin to confirm the blog, but they were told they would have to wait until 12 PM to find out, the time of the guide’s official release. At noon they confirmed the official news and celebrated with a champagne toast with their staff and lunch guests.
What is takes to check the Micheling guide box?
For Airudo, who has lived and worked in 13 different countries over his 13-year culinary career, from the United States to Mexico to various European destinations, gaining a Michelin star seems to be just another box checked on his long culinary to-do list. In fact, La Bottega was his first venture as chef-owner.
I always worked six months or one year in a place. It was never my goal to open my own place. It was just my goal to learn.
Airudo explains that it was also not his explicit goal to earn a star, and that he was “surprised” by the news, but that he does recognize the guide’s incredible influence, especially in Europe.
Getting a star forces you to grow, and I want to grow.
he says, adding that he also wants to earn a place on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
As proof of how much earning a star can change things for a chef and restaurant—and also of the highly competitive nature of the culinary world—he adds,
Now it is my aim to have two or three, simply because there are more to have.
Michelin star: An open door to future chalenges
The La Bottega chefs have also added some new culinary projects around Geneva for 2016 since their star was announced, hence the potential growth factor associated with earning a star. Indeed, since receiving the news in October, Airudo and Gasbarro have changed the La Bottega kitchen - there are now 16 chefs working under them in the 52-seat restaurant - and reduced the number of covers they serve on a daily basis, all without raising the prices on the menu so far.
But Airudo is quick to point out that La Bottega - which means “workshop” or “boutique” in Italian - is different than other Geneva restaurants, which makes their star even more special.
People here are surprised by what we are. What we offer breaks the rules here. We have a standard of honest, friendly and funny service - not stiff. There is a lot of fanfare around traditional Michelin places here, and I find that unnecessary. For us, it’s what’s on the plate. A second star does not mean more luxury to me, it means where we are in terms of food.
Michelin, apparently, also found what was on the plate to be enough. Its short commentary praises, above all, the simplicity of the products and the preparation. Airudo agrees, calling it a “perfect review.”
Responding to a question about how gaining a Michelin star has changed his life?, Airudo says,
Well my life has changed in that I have more work. I have more jobs to do. Less relaxation. But growing or not growing is a choice - a simple choice.
This article first appeared on hosco.