Simanaitis Says

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MICHELIN GUIDES WERE originally developed in 1900 to help French motorists identify motor car mechanicians as well as restaurants. Based on anonymous reviewers, Michelin began recommending restaurants with single stars (they’re actually florets) in 1926; two- and three-star ratings were introduced in 1933.

A Michelin star.

Grading Criteria. At the TripSavvy website, Akila McConnell explains “How Michelin Stars Are Awarded to Restaurants.”

Illustration from The TripSavvy website.

Michelin say one star signifies “a very good restaurant, worth a stop.” Two stars imply “excellent cooking, worth a detour.” Three stars honor those restaurants with “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.” The list of the world’s Michelin-starred restaurants is updated once a year, still based on anonymous reviews.

Distributions of Stars. A total of 137 restaurants around the world currently have three-star ratings. More than 400 have two stars; some 2300 have one star.

Wikipedia lists the 19 countries having 3-star restaurants, alphabetically from Austria (1) to the United States (14). Japan has the most, 32; France, including Monaco, isn’t far behind with 27.

Singapore has two 3-star establishments, but the surprise is that 12 food stalls there have earned 1-star status.

Singapore’s Food Stalls. Singapore is legendary for its food stalls, many open-air establishments with a single chef preparing the street food.

In 2016, Chan Hon Meng’s “Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle” gave anonymous reviewers reason to award his food stall 1-star status, the first such establishment in the world to earn this honor.

Hawker Chan’s food stall, China Town Complex, Singapore. This and the following images from Live from a Lounge.

“My occupation,” Chan said, “is meat-roasting. Before I was honored with the Michelin award, I never thought a hawker could be globally recognized…. My soya sauce chicken is made with ginger, garlic, and spices, including a type of high-quality (secret) spice that I carefully select.”

Chan started his hawker food stall in 2009. Then, in 2016, “One day, a Michelin employee came to my hawker stall and informed me that I was being given a Michelin star for my soya sauce chicken. I felt very honored. I couldn’t believe it. I was so glad. I felt that all the honor was thanks to my customers.”

Chan’s Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken.

“Therefore,” he said, “I have decided not to increase the price at my hawker stall.”

His Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice costs SGP $2.00, about $1.50 U.S. The stall has retained its starred status for four straight years now.

Chan’s Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Noodles cost SGP $2.50, about $1.88 U.S.

I’ve dined at several Michelin-starred restaurants: Alain Ducasse à l’Hôtel de Paris, Monte Carlo; Kanda, in Tokyo; Alain Chapel’s, Mionnay, France; The Restaurant at Meadowood, St. Helena, California; and La Pyramide F. Point, Vienne, France. I believe each experience cost rather more than $1.88, albeit with special culinary pleasures of its own. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2019

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