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Jun 08, 2023 / 11:06

Michelin stars to motivate Vietnamese cuisine

Michelin inspectors will explore more gastronomic corners across the country and bestow more stars on Vietnamese eateries and chefs while chefs from abroad will also want to open a restaurant here.

The recognition of four Vietnamese restaurants with Michelin stars has opened a new chapter of Vietnam's cuisine as stated by Gwendal Poullennec, International Director of the Michelin Guide in a conversation with The Hanoi Times.

Independent, transparent review process 

After the award ceremony, there is a heated debate among the locals about the quality of some of the starred restaurants, the omission of banh mi, and the fact that Hanoi has more Michelin-starred restaurants than HCM City. What are your thoughts on this?

I am delighted that the Michelin Guide has received much interest from the community. I think people's controversies and discussions about the Michelin list will make experts more aware of the cuisine, from which the Michelin Guide will help raise the level of Vietnamese cuisine on the international culinary map.

As for comments on social media that unfair reviews or relationships may affect the outcome of the selection, I honestly don't care.

 Gwendal Poullennec, International Director of Michelin Guide, announced honored restaurants. Photo: Ngo Minh/The Hanoi Times

Would you like to explain how the Michelin Guide inspectors work?

The Michelin Guide has an independent review process, separate from the restaurants. Our team of inspectors are culinary experts from many cultures. They work full-time for the Michelin Guide.

We have been observing Vietnamese cuisine for a long time and have noticed the stability and identity of the restaurants here, so last year, the evaluators came here to experience and evaluate. They not only enjoyed meals in restaurants but also spent time learning about local customs and culture to gain knowledge and understanding of Vietnamese cuisine.

The inspectors work entirely anonymously to prevent any factors from influencing the results. Many inspectors visit each restaurant, but each inspector only visits the restaurant once to ensure the transparency of the process.

The final score results from a group of inspectors, not an individual. We do not use opinions on social networks or media as a criterion in our evaluation process. We guarantee that a one-star restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City, Tokyo, or Paris is the same quality.

In addition, we have no bias or quota in our search for restaurants in these two cities. The fact that Hanoi has three Michelin-starred restaurants and Ho Chi Minh City has only one is because the appraisers choose only restaurants with good food, not where the restaurant is located.

The Michelin Guide will remove stars from restaurants that do not maintain their level of excellence or remove them from the list altogether. Is that true?

That's right. It's not enough for a restaurant to be listed in the Michelin Guide once, it has to demonstrate quality every day, every year, and ensure a consistent experience for diners. If the quality goes down, it will definitely not be listed in the Michelin Guide.

So I think it is much more important for restaurants to build lasting relationships with their customers than to win over the Michelin Guide reviewers.

Let me give you an example of a sushi restaurant in Japan that has been awarded three Michelin stars. Many heads of state have dined there. After the star was awarded, the number of guests flocking to the restaurant became so large that the restaurant only accepted groups of VIP guests or those who were acquainted with the restaurant. Although the food quality remains the same, the diner's experience is no longer what it used to be, so we decided to withdraw the Michelin stars.

A platform for Vietnamese cuisine to strive

What does it mean for Vietnamese restaurants to be included in the Michelin Guide and awarded a Michelin star?

Michelin Guide has a team of appraisers from 20 countries. We are present in more than 40 countries and regions. The Michelin star is like a passport that helps the restaurant to step out into the world, helps chefs have more freedom in style, promotes their personalities, and empowers them to pursue their dream. Starred restaurants attract more visitors, stay longer and spend more, helping the local tourism industry.

The Michelin star is an honor for a restaurant and a reference channel for diners. Many people look forward to enjoying food at Michelin-starred restaurants. The more guests come, the higher the demand and requirements will be. The restaurant owners must make efforts to improve the service, thereby, the food quality will be more and more developed.

I believe that the Michelin Award will give impetus to the Vietnamese culinary industry because chefs from abroad will also want to open a restaurant here.

 Vietnamese cuisine is expected to be promoted to the world through Michelin Guide. Photo: Ngo Minh/The HanoiTimes

In the first two Vietnamese cities to be evaluated by the Michelin Guide, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, how do you personally rate the cuisine?

Hanoi always exudes relaxation and calm with the small shops and restaurants you can easily find in the Old Quarter. This city converges the bold flavors of the North of traditional Vietnamese cuisine, emphasizing freshness, diversified spices, and herbs to create a unique combination for each dish.

Meanwhile, Ho Chi Minh City is a vibrant and fast-growing city that always offers visitors a unique energy source with a diverse cuisine. Modern and traditional cooking techniques are clearly displayed. We also see great coordination between experienced and young chefs through the ideas and creativity expressed in the dishes.

The two localities have different typical dishes, but in general, both contribute to regional and global cuisine.

In Vietnam, young people tend to choose restaurants based on the reviews of influencers on social networks. How do you think the Michelin Guide can be convincing to young people?

You said that this award is controversial on social media. This proves that young Vietnamese are also very interested in Michelin.

I want to tell you that I once went to a restaurant near the Forbidden City in Beijing, and I was 38 years old and the oldest customer that year.

I think Michelin has a great influence on people of all ages. Qualified restaurants are listed on all of Michelin's social media platforms, so young people are sure to reach them.

Thank you for your time!