The Michelin Guide is the fine-dining bible. Earning even one of three possible stars in the series of reference books puts a restaurant among the world’s best.
But when the French tire company releases its selections in late October and early November, Cleveland won’t be included. Local foodies may bemoan this omission, but chef Dante Boccuzzi thinks it’s justified — even when it comes to his own Dante in Tremont.
“I can’t think of one [Cleveland] restaurant that deserves one star,” he says. “Two stars? Impossible.”
Boccuzzi would know. The James Beard-nominated chef earned one star in 2006 for his progressive American cuisine as executive chef of Aureole New York. He also trained in Michelin-starred kitchens, including Marco Pierre White’s L’Escargot in London and the three-starred Erbusco in Brescia, Italy.
Mythologized in movies such as Burnt (sorry, the drop-a-fork test is fiction), the Michelin Guide’s rigorous, secretive and anonymous inspection process reviews everything from creativity to freshness. The three-star scale tells travelers if a restaurant is “very good,” “worth a detour” or “worth a special journey.”
Sure, he says, Dante’s 21-course tasting menu at the chef’s table — which costs $500 and includes round-trip limo transportation — might be a one-star experience. But a skeleton crew on Tuesday night wouldn’t cut the mustard.
“These places have 10 tables, 25 highly trained chefs and two to three waiters per table — dressed pristinely with the highest level of professionalism,” says Boccuzzi. “Cleveland doesn’t offer that.”
Few U.S. cities do. Since launching in 1900, the guide has expanded to 36 cities, but only four are American: New York City, San Francisco, Chicago and, most recently, Washington, D.C. Acceptance would also take much more than Dante. The New York City guide, the first American book released in 2005, covers more than 500 restaurants and 50 hotels.
But Cleveland chefs might not want the burden. The famously iconoclastic White refused a listing this year, and the pressure drove French chef Bernard Loiseau to suicide in 2003.
“It’s another whole level of craziness,” says Boccuzzi. “People will do anything for these stars.”