Finally, someone makes sense of the Michelin Guide!Finally, someone makes sense of the Michelin Guide!

Thank god for slate. Today they printed the first article that says something interesting about the Michelin’s New York debut: that too many stars were awarded. That’s right, none of the four restaurants awarded three stars were worthy, because, among other things, it’s a violation of the Michelin Guide’s own set of rules, one of which is not to award three stars to any restaurant being reviewed for the first time.

Steinberger’s take is that Michelin wanted to flatter its new stomping ground by giving undeserved stars in order to sell a bunch of books and get people interested. Can you imagine the complaints if no restaurant earned 3 stars? It’s bad enough as it is. Steinberger goes further in saying that, even if it were next year, or five years from now, none of these restaurants actually deserve 3 stars, even Alain Ducasse, who has two 3-star establishments in France. The service is the same here, but the food is not.

I’m no food historian, and I can’t afford to eat at any 3-star joint in any part of the world, but I have read extensively about these places in old books and new books, and it strikes me that New York might never have a restaurant on a par with Taillevent or Troisgros. We don’t have that restaurant culture in New York. We have tens of thousands of restaurants, and we’re a city that loves to eat out. Some of us eat all of our meals out. But our restaurants lack the history and the culture of service that France created.

I don’t particularly care for French food or French restaurants, but I won’t deny their influence and importance. Some of their 3-star restaurants have been around for centuries and are situated in beautiful châteaux with gardens in the back—how can Manhattan compete with that? How can we expect to keep up in their game?

We can’t keep up, and it’s a shame that Michelin threw us a bone and set up expectations. I’d love it if they removed some stars in next year’s edition, but I don’t see that happening.

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