Cover photo courtesy: Lisbet Hernandez, Arepa Mia.
Created by a French tire company in 1900, the Michelin Guide once was a series of gourmand guidebooks designed to encourage tourists to travel, and taste local cuisines in France. The company would send out a team of secret food tasters who would sample foods from different cities, visit it repeatedly to judge them by the consistency of service, flavor and ambiance, and select a few ‘Michelin-starred‘ destinations for hungry travelers. A Michelin star would also drive up the popularity of the restaurant, pushing restaurants to do better each year to serve their consumers. Over time, this guide grew to other countries and has now become a mark of prestige.
Michelin awards between one to three stars to a restaurant. Sometimes it may even take away a star if the restaurant underperforms from previous years. While these are the most coveted stars, in years past, other classifications have emerged, such as Bib Gourmand for excellent but affordable dining, and a Green Michelin Star for restaurants who are working to make the restaurants sustainable. A smaller category has also emerged, as ‘Recommended’ – restaurants that may have some ways to go before they achieve Michelin status, but uphold an ethos of offering excellent service, and consistently good meals.
Metro Atlanta is only the seventh metro area in the United States that boasts of Michelin-starred restaurants. Most of the clusters of restaurants are in Metro NY, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC, and a few in Florida, and in Colorado. This makes it a matter of immense honor to be recognized.
In a red-carpet ceremony at the Rialto, on October 24, 2023, restaurateurs from all over town gathered to see if their work and efforts made the cut, because the secret judges had been dining across town for months prior. After being serenaded by live music, and taking in a quick sampling of drinks and appetizers from many sponsors, the guests were ushered into the theater for the suspense-laden ceremony. Each award winner was called onto the stage where they exchanged their jacket for a new white Michelin coat, called the Andre jacket. This jacket was only given to the recipients of the Michelin One Star, and was designed by the company Lafont. The jacket is made exclusively for Michelin by the French designer Louis-Marie de Castelbajac, and uses sustainably sourced materials.
The Michelin guide for Atlanta includes:
Five restaurants that received One Star: Atlas, Bacchanalia, Hayakawa, Lazy Betty and Mujo. Two restaurants received a Green Star: Bacchanalia and The Chastain.
Ten restaurants received the Bib Gourmand recognition: Antico Pizza Napoletana, Arepa Mia, Banshee, Bomb Biscuit Co., The Busy Bee, Estrellita, Fishmonger, Fred’s Meat & Bread, Heirloom Market BBQ and Little Bear.
Four Special Awards:
Michelin Exceptional Cocktails: Jason Furst & team, BoccaLupo
Michelin Sommelier: Juan Fernando Cortes, The Chastain
Michelin Outstanding Service: Neal McCarty & Front of House Team, Miller Union
Michelin Young Chef Award: Chef Jarrett Stieber, Little Bear.
Thirty restaurants were also awarded a ‘Recommended’ status.
The guide included three cuisines that won a single star: American, Contemporary and Japanese, eight under the Bib Gourmand, and twenty three cuisines were represented overall. No restaurant won two or three stars.
The question for any desi diner remained – did any Indian restaurants make the cut? Unfortunately, the state of Indian restaurants in Atlanta is quite telling, as even the popular Chai Pani, backed by a James Beard-winning chef, only made it as far as being on the ‘Recommended’ list.
Patrons of Indian cuisine believe that it is the best in the world. And while it is a matter of personal preference, the noticeable omission in the starred section of the Michelin Guide for Atlanta offers pause for thought – especially about the state of Indian restaurants in metro Atlanta. Excellence is achieved from a combination of many things: excellence of flavor, attention to detail, service towards clientele and above all, a deep commitment to carry forward the purest form of dedication towards their craft. It will take a lot more than butter chicken doused in cream, claims of health benefits of a dish, volume sales, press coverage in glossy magazines or stereotypical decor to receive this distinction. The desi community deserves better and Indian restaurants in Atlanta have a long way to go.
See the full list here.
Details of judge comments can be found on the Michelin app.