Michael Ellis is the world-wide managing director of the Michelin Guides. On October 2nd 2017 at 11.30am Michael took to the stage at The Brewery, Chiswell Street, London to present the launch of Michelin GB&I Guide 2018. Around 120 Michelin starred restaurant chefs were in attendance to witness the unveiling of the newly awarded stars for 2018. Shortly after the conclusion of the event Michael Ellis found time to briefly speak to Simon Carter of fine dining guide.
How have you found the role since our first meeting in 2013?
I was delighted to conduct the first European web interview with fine dining guide in London in 2013. A lot has happened in the Michelin world since then!
What are the five criteria for awarding a Michelin Star?
The first and most important criteria is the ingredients, all great cuisine starts with great product – the actual product itself is considered for freshness, quality, flavour and texture and so on. The second criteria is mastery of cooking technique – a piece of fish, for example, might have a window as small as 30 seconds where it is perfectly cooked, before that it is undercooked and after that time it is overcooked. Our inspectors are looking for this mastery; albeit something the average diner may not realise but is in actual fact critical to the consistent quality of the experience and a key factor should the restaurant be seeking Michelin star recognition. The third criteria is equilibrium and harmony in flavours; the plate must be in balance, so the sauce is not, for example, overpowering the flavour of the fish or that the seasoning of the dish is found to be exactly as it should be. The fourth thing is regularity (or consistency) and this means starter, main and dessert are all of the appropriate standard and that each are also consistent over time. Finally, value for money is the fifth criteria.
Are the Michelin Red Guides a global marketing trojan horse for the international Michelin brand?
There’s no question that the most important activity of Michelin is that we have 115,000 people around the world making, marketing and selling tyres. The guide books however, are part of the company DNA; we wish to have the brand at the top of peoples minds and the books maintain the image of quality as the ideal of the brand. Whatever the company is doing it is about promoting quality and with the guides there is the added element of lifestyle.
What are your thoughts on the GB&I Launch this year?
There were 120 plus chef’s here today and you could see the emotion on display as to what Michelin means to these professionals.
What’s really exciting in GB&I is there is this movement towards British born chefs using the best of British produce while utilising techniques that they may have developed themselves or have been inspired through other chefs be it from within GB&I or from travels to Asia or around Europe and coming up with a personalised British signature that can be broadly categorised at Modern British Cuisine. This has taken the region to the heights on the global stage. In addition, the level and quality of cooking in pubs is very exciting and uniquely British, as an outlet for quality food in relaxed and accessible surroundings. This is part of an overall trend which is the desire for people to eat well and not necessarily get dressed up or have an overly formal experience. The development of the Michelin starred pub (or two star pub) is part of the movement in this direction, which is also touching the restaurant world right through the spectrum.
What are the plans for the future?
We will be accelerating our digital presence on-line as well as an expanding use of social media. We also believe that the paper books and the digital presence of Michelin can happily co-exist.
The situation world-wide continues to get brighter and brighter, last year we launched in Soeul, Shanghai, Washington DC and Singapore and this year we’re launching in Bangkok. We’ll continue to plant the Michelin flagpole around the world as there is a demand for it from both the chef community and the consumers in those regions.