The Michelin Guide, one of the oldest and most internationally-recognized guide books in the world, is coming to DC. The inaugural edition will be released this fall.
Michelin’s international director, Michael Ellis, touched on the reasons for the guide’s arrival in a press conference, also attended by Mayor Muriel Bowser and Michelin-starred chef April Bloomfield from New York. Ellis expanded on DC’s stature as an international city, a booming restaurant town, and home to one of “the best French restaurants to have existed,” Jean-Louis at the Watergate. While there are plans to eventually expand the scope of the guide outside the District, it will initially only cover DC restaurants—which means no chance for some of the top-rated eateries in the greater metropolitan area.
“It has to do with resources,” says Ellis, who will help launch three new guides in Asia and the US this year. “To do a thorough job, we couldn’t be overly ambitious.”
Michelin currently covers three US cities: New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. The addition of Washington is certainly an affirmation of its status as a restaurant town—not to mention a destination for culinary tourism, a point frequently highlighted during the conference—though there’s no telling yet how DC will stack up to the other three cities in regards to the number of Michelin-starred restaurants. The star system ranges from one (“Very good cooking in its category”) to the elusive three (“Exceptional cuisine, worthy of a special journey”), and is almost a separate entity from the guide itself—at least in the mind of the public and restaurant industry. The guidebook, like any other, recommends a variety of eateries, many with no stars at all, which isn’t a mark against them. Even gaining a single Michelin star is a coveted accolade, not to mention three; only six New York restaurants achieved the highest honor last year, including venerable institutions including Le Bernadin and Jean-Georges.
Ellis says the Michelin inspectors—a wholly-anonymous group of industry professionals who’re both revered and criticized—have already been at work in DC over several months. Look for the guide to be released on October 13, with more to follow.