For many Malaysians, it’s about high time the Michelin Guide endorsed our food scene, which is highly applauded as one of the most diverse and culturally rich in the world. Ahead of the guide’s Kuala Lumpur and Penang debut in December, we spoke to the Managing Director of Michelin Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, Prichapakorn Dangrojana and Elisabeth Boucher-Anselin the Director of Communications at Michelin Experiences on the process behind determining if a restaurant is worthy of the prestigious Michelin accolade.
How long does it take for the Michelin Guide to survey the dining scene in KL and Penang?
The process typically takes two years. All restaurants selected by the Michelin Guide follow the same strict criteria used by all inspectors around the world. To assess the quality of a restaurant, inspectors rely on five criteria: the quality of the ingredients, mastery of the cooking, harmony of flavours, expression of the chef’s personality in the cuisine, the consistency over time and across the menu.
As the Michelin Guide has an international presence, its selections must be made according to the same criteria and the same methodology everywhere in the world. This is what ensures that a Star in Tokyo shows the same promise of quality as a Star in New York or Berlin.
Why do you think now is a good time to introduce a Michelin Guide in Malaysia?
Arriving at a new destination is a long-term process. We need to be sure that the maturity of the culinary scene is capable of a long-term approach for selection in Malaysia. It took us several years of research and groundwork. Although some time is lost due to the pandemic, we think the culinary scene in Malaysia is perfectly ready now. Kuala Lumpur remains the economic and business hub of the country, a good variety of cuisine is well located here with sizable venues and independent restaurants and new inspirations are not short.
Meanwhile, Penang is famed for its heritage sites and architecture which has always been one of the most popular tourist destinations in Malaysia and presents a lot more small-scale restaurants and street food. The inspector team also sees the growth of the young generation in the industry. Some of them have been working abroad and decided to come back to their hometown to share their knowledge via gourmet food.
Do you notice if there has been a change in dining habits now that we’re entering the endemic stage of the pandemic?
If anything, during the pandemic, we noticed many local restaurants reacting quickly with their creativity. What remains unchanged is the philosophy of pursuing a better lifestyle. Through the Michelin Guide, we hope to inspire the industry and be the motivation for the restaurants’ efforts and breakthroughs during the pandemic.
How does the Michelin Guide adapt to diner’s desire for transparency when it comes to food critics and reviews?
All restaurants selected by the Michelin Guide follow the same strict criteria used by all inspectors around the world. The inspection team is not influenced by any commercial partnerships or that region’s local cultural work scope but purely by the culinary dishes and dining experience.
We also have an international and local team of inspectors. Rest assured that the team is large enough to cover the entire city and find high-quality restaurants. The anonymity of the inspectors is an integral part of the methodology of the Michelin Guide, hence we do not disclose information about them. Rest assured that we will never compromise on the quality of the inspection process and the Guide. Malaysia is a city with a broad range of international cuisine alongside local cuisine. The team of inspectors is therefore made up of inspectors locally and from around the world.
The gastronomy and F&B industry is a very competitive space for industry players and food reviews have been very common since the early days when we would depend on bloggers and now, influencers and content creators. What truly distinguishes us from other reviewers per se, is the prestigious awards system and recognition we foster and put out to our consumers.
When a restaurant is reviewed by a consumer, foodies may always have this ‘to each their own’ thought and food palates are subjective. However, the Michelin Guide truly upholds a restaurant or eatery at the forefront of the industry giving the recognition it needs, while giving consumers the peace of mind of having quality gastronomical experiences.