All posts by Brent Furdyk

Brent Furdyk is a freelance writer in Vancouver.
Plate of food on wooden restaurant table with basket of bread and wine glasses.

What It Takes To Become a 1, 2 or 3 Michelin Star Restaurant

First published in 1900 by the Michelin tire company as a guide to help French motorists find lodging on the road, the Michelin Guide is now exclusively devoted to fine dining. Over the decades, the guide has far surpassed its humble origins to become an almost-sacred tome to chefs, foodies, culinary experts and the restaurants who regard the guide as the final word in fine dining.

Worthy restaurants are rated on a system of one to three stars, but the process of attaining Michelin stars remains highly secretive, with specially trained Michelin inspectors paying anonymous visits to restaurants and submitting meticulous reports rating the service, decor and, of course, the cuisine.

Plate of food on wooden restaurant table with basket of bread and wine glasses.

In order to know which restaurants are worthy of review, inspectors will comb through websites, blogs and restaurant reviews in local magazines and newspapers — if a restaurant in a given city is generating buzz and word of mouth praise from customers, it may land on a reviewer’s radar.

Related: 10 Great Canadian Restaurants Run by Women

Michelin Star Ratings

Michelin gives out up to three stars, with only the world’s greatest dining establishments attaining that coveted third star. But exactly what does each star mean? According to the guide, one Michelin star represents a “very good restaurant in its category,” while two stars denotes a restaurant boasting “excellent cooking” that is “worth a detour.” Three stars, however, is the ultimate accolade, afforded only to those restaurants that offer “exceptional cuisine” that is “worth a special journey.”

Understandably, there’s a lot of grey area within those rating descriptions, and the process of receiving stars is meticulous and painstaking, typically taking several years. When a reviewer visits a restaurant for the first time, neither the restaurant’s owner nor chef will have any idea it even happened. If the reviewer loves the place, then another mystery visit will be paid the following year. Assuming the second visit goes as well as the first — preferably better — it’s at this point the reviewer may recommend the restaurant receive its first Michelin star.

Related: Meet the $45 Takeout Meal That Comes in a Jewellery Box

chefs cooking in restaurant and getting food lined up on the bar.

Michelin Star Criteria

Michelin remains secretive about the criteria and evaluation process used to award stars, but certain factors are known to be key, including: the quality of the products; a chef’s mastery of flavour and cooking techniques; the chef’s ability to imbue the cuisine with his or her culinary “personality;” and consistency between visits, not just when it comes to food but also encompassing the overall dining experience.

Earning one Michelin star is typically seen as a gift from the gods, but is not necessarily a golden ticket to receiving the second and third. For that to happen, it will take many more anonymous visits over ensuing years, and the stars must align perfectly. For example, if an otherwise extraordinary restaurant happens to have an off night while an inspector is visiting, that single experience could quash any future hopes of ever getting a star.

How to Earn Stars

Although the process is seemingly random from a restaurant’s perspective, there are in fact several steps that can be taken to increase the likelihood of receiving Michelin stars:

1. Meticulousness

A restaurateur needs to treat every night as if it’s the night of a Michelin inspection, and chefs and staff must be meticulously trained to ensure everyone is working together and on the same page. By ensuring that every diner’s experience on any given night is as exceptional as possible, only then will a restaurant be in the running for a Michelin star.

2. Train Under Michelin-Starred Chefs

For a chef seeking a Michelin star, it can be beneficial to train under a chef who has already earned one or more. By becoming the protégé of a chef who’s already earned the respect of Michelin, an up-and-comer aspiring toward Michelin stardom can more easily get on Michelin’s radar.

3. Discipline

It’s been said that cooking is an endless quest for perfection that can never be achieved. Only those with the desire and discipline to be the best will make the cut to become Michelin’s next culinary superstars.

Seafood plated in blue bowl on wooden table in restaurant.

4. Investment

While it may be tempting to bank a restaurant’s profits, that’s not going to win a Michelin star. The key is to use those profits to further invest in the restaurant to improve the decor, better train staff, source higher-quality ingredients, etc. If a Michelin inspector sees a restaurant, no matter how good, constantly striving to improve instead of simply resting on its laurels, this could make all the difference. It’s not unheard of for a restaurant to spend millions on improvements and then earn the money back (and then some) thanks to the increased revenues that can come from a Michelin star.

5. Mastery

If you were raised in a kitchen in Spain where you learned the secrets of traditional Basque cuisine at your grandmother’s tutelage, why would you open a sushi restaurant in Tokyo? It makes sense for a chef to cook the type of food he or she is most comfortable with. Only by attaining a mastery of a particular cuisine will a chef then be able to push the boundaries and propel it in bold, new directions.

6. Creativity

Being on the cutting edge of new food trends, with a relentless pursuit of excellence combined with a drive to push the envelope, is a great way to attract Michelin’s attention. The Michelin Guide would have a tough time ignoring an innovative chef whose cuisine is being talked about as the “next big thing” in the food world.

7. The Finest Ingredients

As any great chef will confirm, ingredients are key. With this in mind, Michelin-starred chefs have been known to personally source unique, hard-to-find ingredients, forging relationships with farmers, artisan bakers, cheese-makers and the like in order to work with the only the best, most unique ingredients possible. Cutting corners is not the way to a Michelin star.

8. Walk to Canossa

This term refers to King Henry IV humbling himself before the pope and offering penance. It’s also the nickname for the practice (which was apparently quite common up through the 1980s) in which chefs aspiring toward Michelin stardom would journey to Paris in order to meet with the guide’s editors and make a case explaining why their restaurants deserved consideration. Although not as common as it once was, rumour has it this still takes place on occasion.

Photos courtesy of Unsplash

Thanksgiving Sides Pairing

10 Perfect Pairings for Your Thanksgiving Turkey

Thanksgiving dinner is about more than just the turkey — we also come to expect to see the table creaking under the weight of all manner of delicious side dishes paired with the juicy roast bird. From old standbys such as creamy garlic mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce to new favourites like roasted, caramelized Brussels sprouts, check out these drool-inducing ideas to pair with your turkey on Thanksgiving day.

1. Ree Drummond’s Best Ever Green Beans

cooked green beans with sauteed onions and red pepper in white bowl on table

Few vegetables pair so perfectly with turkey as green beans, and Ree Drummond’s version gives the humble vegetable something to brag about. This kicked-up recipe adds butter (or bacon grease), onion, red pepper and garlic, cooked to perfection in a skillet.

Get the recipe for Ree Drummond’s Best Ever Green Beans

2. Guy Fieri’s Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are practically a given at any Thanksgiving dinner, and there are seemingly endless variations on how to prepare this tasty tuber. Rather than simply baking or mashing, Guy Fieri serves up this twice-baked recipe that adds extra texture thanks to chopped pecans, all topped with a brown sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon crust.

Get the recipe for Guy Fieri’s Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes

3. Bobby Flay’s Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

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Once upon a time, Brussels sprouts were those soggy, boiled-to-mush vegetables that kids would try to hide under their napkins — but no more. Bobby Flay turns that idea on its head with this Thanksgiving-ready side dish of perfectly caramelized and crispy mini cabbages with rich pancetta bacon. Don’t be surprised if this fall side becomes your family’s favourite new holiday side dish.

Get the recipe for Bobby Flay’s Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

4. Ina Garten’s Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits

Instead of the same old dinner rolls, kick your Thanksgiving dinner into overdrive with Ina Garten’s easy-to-make biscuits, delectably infused with the taste of sharp cheddar cheese.

Get the recipe for Ina Garten’s Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits

5. Ree Drummond’s Cranberry Sauce

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Thanksgiving turkey without cranberry sauce is like a ski vacation without snow, and Pioneer Woman host, Ree Drummond offers her own creative take on this time-honoured sauce. With orange juice and maple syrup adding extra sweetness and some grated orange rind for extra zest.

Get the recipe for Ree Drummond’s Cranberry Sauce

6. Giada De Laurentiis’ Roasted Root Vegetables

No Thanksgiving table should be without a healthy serving of colourful, roasted root vegetables. Giada serves up a simply prepared but undeniably delicious combo of potatoes, parsnips, Brussels sprouts and carrots, roasted together to mouth-watering perfection.

Get the recipe for Giada De Laurentiis’ Roasted Root Vegetables

Sausage and Herb Stuffing; Ina Garten

7. Ina Garten’s Sausage and Herb Stuffing

Stuffing is a Thanksgiving dinner favourite, and everyone seems to have their own unique tried-and-true recipe. It’s pretty much a given that the Barefoot Contessa would have a killer stuffing recipe up her sleeve. If you’re looking to try out a new recipe to pair with your turkey this year, look no further than this savoury sweet stuffing by Ina Garten featuring diced apples and spicy Italian sausage.

Get the recipe for Ina Garten’s Sausage and Herb Stuffing

8. Ree Drummond’s Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Simple but delicious, Ree’s recipe for mashed potatoes adds half-and-half cream, butter, cream cheese and tons of roasted garlic for a savoury side dish that will pair perfectly with any turkey. But be forewarned: don’t be surprised if guests come back for a second helping of these fluffy, flavourful spuds, so you’ll want to make plenty!

Get the recipe for Ree Drummond’s Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

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9. Tyler Florence’s Roasted Turkey Gravy

Nothing on the Thanksgiving table pairs more perfectly with everything than gravy. Whether it’s mashed potatoes, stuffing or turkey, a classic gravy is a tasty addition to dress up any dish. Tyler Florence’s drool-worthy sage- and thyme-flavoured gravy recipe will produce about three cups of aromatic sauce for your lip-smacking pleasure.

Get the recipe for Tyler Florence’s Roasted Turkey Gravy

10. Ree Drummond’s Mushroom Pilaf

In addition to recipes that offer new spins on old favourites, this filling side dish by The Pioneer Woman is bursting with the rich, savoury flavour of shitake mushrooms.

Get the recipe for Ree Drummond’s Mushroom Pilaf

Looking for some main-spiration? Look no further than our best Thanksgiving turkey recipes and the most delicious uses for leftover mashed potatoes.

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Top 10 Michelin-Star Restaurants in the World

Holding three Michelin stars is a rare honour few restaurants have achieved, and these Michelin-starred restaurants rank among the world’s finest culinary destinations thanks to innovation, creativity and some of the best food you’ll ever taste. According to Elite Traveler magazine’s annual list of the world’s 100 best restaurants, these are 2018’s top 10 Michelin star restaurants.

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1. Alinea: Chicago, Illinois

Founded by chef Grant Achatz in 2005, Alinea quickly rocketed to the top of Chicago’s food scene due to Achatz’s unique food preparation and deconstruction of iconic dishes, renowned for his brave and unconventional approach to fine dining. Alinea remains on the cutting edge of the molecular gastronomy movement, with the intention of both shocking and delighting guests with dishes such as an edible balloon made from a dehydrated apple filled with helium, or a truffle-topped ravioli filled with truffle broth that explodes with flavour in one’s mouth.

2. Azurmendi: Larrabetzu, Spain

Located in Larrabetzu, Spain, Azurmendi follows the vision of Basque chef Eneko Atxa follows the offers diners a unique experience that begins at the restaurant’s rooftop vegetable garden, where they get a gander at some of the fresh produce they’ll be enjoying for their meal. Diners are then brought through the kitchen to an indoor greenhouse, where some “snacks” such as the restaurant’s popular “edible cotton” are served. In the dining room, guests enjoy such exquisite dishes as truffled egg, which is cooked “inside out” with part of the yolk removed and substituted with truffle consommé. In addition to having attained three Michelin stars, Azurmendi is also environmentally friendly, recycling its waste, harvesting rain and using geothermal energy to cool the building.

3. Eleven Madison Park: New York City

The menu of this world-class Manhattan restaurant is distinctly American, as seen through the creative filter of chef Daniel Humm. The restaurant is renowned for its multi-course tasting menu, which changes based on the availability of fresh, seasonal local ingredients and guided by the culinary traditions of New York City and the agricultural offerings of the region. Dining at Eleven Madison Park is an event, and enjoying the full 11-course tasting menu will take upwards of three hours as diners sample such exquisite dishes as Muscovy duck glazed with lavender honey and foie gras terrine served with plums, umeboshi and bitter almonds.

4. Per Se: New York City

Located on the fourth floor of the Time Warner Building in Midtown Manhattan’s Columbus Circle, Per Se features the cuisine of Chef Thomas Keller (the only American chef to be awarded three simultaneous Michelin stars, via his other restaurants, The French Laundry and Bouchon). With special tasting menus available daily — no single ingredient is repeated during the meal — the Michelin Guide describes Per Se’s cuisine as being “at one timeless and of the moment, raising the bar with meals that express artistry, seasonality and sourcing that can seem hyperbolic — they know which Vermont cow gave the milk for your butter.”

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5. Osteria Francescana: Modena, Italy

The restaurant of chef Massimo Bottura (who topped the bestseller lists with his book Never Trust a Skinny Chef) in Modena, Italy celebrates the bounty of Emilia-Romagna, his home province in the northern part of the country. Yet Bottura’s take on Italian cuisine is hardly traditional, exploring the ingredients and traditions of the region by giving them a contemporary twist. Along with such classic Italian fare as tagliatelle and risotto cooked with veal jus, Bottura also presents such off-the-wall dishes as rabbit macaroons and his Five Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano, in which iconic cheese is served in five wildly differing textures, depending on their age, ranging from a crispy galette to a frothy Parmesan foam.

6. Robuchon au Dôme: Macau

One of many restaurants from celebrated chef Joel Robuchon, this gastronomic restaurant in Macao (formerly known as Robuchon a Galera) sits high atop the 48-storey Grand Lisboa hotel. Featuring the culinary creations of executive chef Julien Tongurian, Robuchon au Dôme has been described as arguably Macao’s best restaurant, and one of the top restaurants in all of Asia, offering French cuisine with a refined sensibility. The restaurant’s “Prestige Menu” features such offerings as imperial caviar and king crab refreshed with crustacean jelly, and a crispy waffle scampi seasoned with espelette pepper.

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7. The Restaurant at Meadowood: Napa Valley, California

A farm-to-table ethos permeates the dishes of this Napa Valley staple, with the Michelin guide gushing over the cuisine of Chef Christopher Kostow, describing food “that is elevated to an art form” and food that “never ceases to better itself through innovation and purity.” There’s a meticulous attention to detail is evident in everything served, and a seasonal approach to ingredients that means the menu changes constantly to make the most of fresh, local ingredients. “We are relentless in trying to make the food better, more delicious, more relevant, more singular, more personal,” the restaurant declares on its website. “We are smart enough to know that this is a forever task, yet impetuous enough to try to still do it all today.”

8. Le Bernardin: New York City

Regarded as one of New York City’s finest restaurants, Le Bernardin was founded in Paris in 1972 by siblings Maguy and Gilbert Le Coze, and initially only served fish. The restaurant later moved to New York, where it quickly became the toast of the NYC culinary scene. When Gilbert Le Coze passed away in 1994, the late chef’s disciple and friend Chef Eric Ripert took over, and continues to be guided by the philosophy that “the fish is the star of the plate.”

9. Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville: Crissier, Switzerland

Located in Crissier, Switzerland (a suburb of Lausanne), the Michelin Guide offers high praise for Chef Franck Giovannini, who “creates majestic dishes with a careful eye on maintaining traditions, which are then presented with impeccable service.” The food is exquisite, with a focus on balanced flavours and simplicity while utilizing lavish ingredients and flawless preparation. The menu changes constantly, with recent offerings including white asparagus from the Valais, seasoned with caviar, and medallions of Dublin Bay prawns served with guacamole.

10. The Fat Duck: Berkshire, United Kingdom

Opened in 1995 by chef Heston Blumenthal inside a renovated 16th-century cottage, The Fat Duck had attained three Michelin stars by 2004 and an international reputation for being on the cutting edge of such culinary trends as food pairing, multi-sensory cooking and flavour encapsulation. Famed for its eclectic 14-course tasting menu, The Fat Duck reflects Blumenthal’s sense of whimsy, evident in such dishes as the Alice in Wonderland-inspired mock turtle soup, which includes an edible faux watch made from freeze-dried beef stock coated in gold leaf that is dropped into a teacup into which hot beef stock “tea” is poured to dissolve the watch.
Along with inventive techniques, Blumenthal also adds a heavy dose of psychology to his dishes, using the power of perception to “trick” diners into experiencing certain taste sensations. “For example, eat sardine on toast sorbet for the first time, confusion will reign as the brain will be trying to tell the palate to expect a dessert and you will, therefore, be tasting more sweetness than actually exists.” This is reflected in a famed dish he calls “Sounds of the Sea,” in which the food is topped with a seafood foam and served on a “beach” made from tapioca, breadcrumbs and eel. What’s more, diners are presented with an iPod so they can listen to the sound of ocean waves while eating it. You’ll also want to leave room to try the Fat Duck signature dish, Blumenthal’s bacon-and-egg ice cream.

How does a restaurant even earn a Michelin star? Learn what it takes to earn 1, 2 or 3 Michelin stars.

10 Delicious Ways to Dress Up Mashed Potatoes

With that big holiday dinner fast approaching, ask yourself this: are you getting tired of serving the same, boring old mashed potatoes each year? If you answered in the affirmative, you won’t go wrong with these mouth-watering recipes for mashed potatoes that will raise the bar at any holiday feast.

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1. Baked Mashed Potatoes with Parmesan Cheese and Bread Crumbs
Giada De Laurentiis adds bread crumbs and plenty of salty, melted Parmesan cheese to top this baked mashed potato masterpiece.

2. French Potato Purée
Superbly sophisticated, Laura Calder’s recipe puts a sensational spin on mashed potatoes with this creamy purée that will dazzle adult taste buds with its subtle complexity of flavours.

3. Crème Fraiche Mashed Potatoes
Anna Olson adds green onions, garlic and thick crème fraiche to these chunky mashed potatoes that make an ideal accompaniment for just about any main.

4. Garlic and Parsley Mashed Potatoes
Fresh, aromatic garlic is lightly sautéed in butter or margarine, combining with fresh parsley for a flavour-packed variation on the comfort-food classic.

5. Grandma’s Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes
A time-honoured recipe from his grandmother, Michael Smith serves up this mouth-watering version of mashed potatoes that boasts golden-brown butter as its key ingredient, with just a touch of nutmeg to enhance the rich flavour.

6. Lynn’s Lobster Mashed Potatoes
“Opulent” doesn’t even begin to describe Lynn Crawford’s sumptuous recipe, with sweet, tender chunks of lobster tail mixed into buttery mashed potatoes for a decadent side dish that’s practically a meal in itself.

7. Horseradish Mashed Potatoes
You’ll be amazed at how adding just a bit of horseradish to mashed potatoes can add a zesty zip that takes this reliable side dish to new heights.

8. Grainy Mustard Mashed Potatoes
Fresh thyme and spicy whole-grain mustard add some deliciously powerful flavour to this kicked-up mashed potato recipe from Tyler Florence.

9. Baked Mashed Potatoes with Pancetta, Parmesan Cheese and Breadcrumbs
Smoky pancetta bacon is the secret weapon in this unbelievably flavourful variation of mashed potatoes that’s certain to satisfy any crowd.

10. Cheddar Bacon Mashed Potatoes
Imagine a bacon cheeseburger combined with mashed potatoes and you get the idea behind this creative recipe that adds the unmistakable flavours of crispy bacon and sharp cheddar.