Vancouver restaurants hope they’ll be seeing stars as city is named destination for prestigious Michelin Guide

Vancouver’s food scene has won the approval of the famed Michelin Guide, with the city named as an official destination for its reviewers.

Starting this fall, restaurants that impress could receive anywhere from one to three coveted Michelin stars, bringing a bump in prestige — and business.

The guidebooks, which were first published in France more than a century ago, award stars annually to restaurants that exhibit culinary excellence.

“Anybody who visits here knows our cuisine is world class and that it reflects a huge array of cultures,” said Mayor Kennedy Stewart during an announcement Thursday that Vancouver had made the list of Michelin destinations.

“Our diverse city is home to some of the most creative, pioneering culinary talent on the continent, who have paved the way for us to share our cuisine with the world.”

Two men in suits stand in front of a chef with a white hat.
Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the Michelin Guides (left), and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart at the announcement Thursday. (CBC)

Anonymous inspectors are already in the city, making dining reservations and paying for all their meals to ensure they are treated the same as any other customer, according to Michelin North America.

Toronto was named Canada’s first Michelin Guide destination earlier this year.

Thursday’s announcement, held at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts on Granville Island, comes after a difficult two years for BC’s tourism and restaurant industry, which faced constant uncertainty from pandemic-related closures and restrictions.

“Now more than ever in tourism, restaurants and hospitality need the best and the brightest to lead us back to a greater future,” federal Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault said.

Earlier this year, Vancouver restaurant Published on Main was named the No. 1 culinary place to be on the list of Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants. Now the restaurant hopes it’ll be a contender for a Michelin star.

“I think the validation of being recognized by Michelin would be huge for us and I think it would just in perpetuity bring more customers to us,” said Gus Stieffenhofer-Brandson, executive chef at Published on Main.

Published on Main executive chef Gus Stieffenhofer-Brandson at work in the kitchen. (CBC)

Diversity criticism

But the announcement has also generated some criticism from people within the restaurant industry.

Local food writer and events organizer Aman Dosanji says Michelin has come under fire in the past for a lack of diversity among its listings.

Dosanji says she’d like to see a wider variety of countries represented and not just the “best bits from each country.”

“I think in 2022, we deserve a lot more varied cuisines on those kinds of ranking systems,” she told CBC.

Stieffenhofer-Brandson’s says while more international recognition for Vancouver’s restaurants scene is overwhelmingly positive, he also hopes it doesn’t drive to put too much pressure on themselves.

“Being busy is the best problem we could possibly have.” he said. “[But] our main goal is to make sure our staff are being taken care of.”

Michelin inspectors base their reviews on five criteria: quality products, harmony of flavours, mastery of cooking techniques, personality of the chef in the cuisine, and the consistency across each visit — as each restaurant is inspected several times a year.

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