Michelin muddle

People have still not got the hang of this Michelin nonsense, so, once and for all, repeat in unison: there is no such thing as a 'Michelin chef'. The Michelin Guide, love it or hate it, awards its prized stars to restaurants, never to chefs or cooks or whatever. However, the chefs themselves understandably prefer to be called 'Michelin chefs', rather than be referred to as 'chefs of Michelin-starred restaurants'.

But of course, while the owner/manager may be happy with the Michelin-star-restaurant term, the chef wants to be the one that gets customers through the door. My boss at Diario SUR's gastronomy supplement was taken to task recently when she ignored this golden rule and wrote that a certain number of 'Michelin chefs' were visiting Malaga. A reader quite sensibly made it clear that this would be impossible, and pointed out the above facts.

The reply went something like this: "I am aware that Michelin stars are granted to restaurants and not to people. But the guidelines for the awarding of stars are described by the Michelin organisation as follows: Three stars - Cooking of an exceptional level where one always eats well and occasionally exceptionally well. The journey is always worth the trouble. Two stars - Excellent cuisine, worth a detour. One star - Very comfortable." (Has something been lost in the translation?) The writer points out that all but the one star rating appears heavily dependent on the quality of the food, justifying the importance of the chef, and backs this up by mentioning that at the annual awards ceremony, the legendary Michelin chefs' jackets that the winning chefs wear are an integral part of the ritual.

Furthermore, the Guide specifies where the culinary merits of a restaurant lie, pointing out that the selection of the raw materials, decisions about cooking time, and the personality of the chef as transposed onto dishes - as well as value-for-money - must all be within the chef's control. It therefore becomes apparent, not for the first time, that Michelin itself is muddying the waters, and while holding to one lifelong principle, is actually prepared to accept another.