Campaigning for a Michelin Star: Tacky or Tactful?

Seven Reasons is making big changes in the hopes of earning a star—and getting diners' attention

Photograph of Seven Reasons by Jen Chase.

Few chefs wouldn’t love a Michelin star. The award carries a lot of cachet in the industry, no matter how head-scratching the anonymous inspectors’ selections (and omissions) can be. But a restaurant publicly lobbying for a star? Even in a city that loves lobbying, it’s something you rarely see. Which makes a new campaign from Seven Reasons, the modern pan-Latin restaurant on 14th Street, all the more notable.

Seven Reasons’ downtown DC sister restaurant Imperfecto earned its first Michelin star this year for its $210-per-person Chef’s Table, which offers 10-plus courses exploring Mediterranean and South American cuisines. Now, chef Enrique Limardo and co-owner Ezequiel Vázquez-Ger want to see their “first baby” join in the accolades. “We would really like to see Seven Reasons being awarded with a star next year,” they wrote in an email blast last week. “That’s why today, we are launching a new campaign: ‘The Road to the Star.’ During the next twelve months, we will continue to innovate, to create new experiences, to learn from mistakes and to be better. We will change menus, revive the space, to welcome you at our home and serve you with the best food you’ve ever tried—or at least, we will make our best to do so!”

On Twitter, though, people had some thoughts. Namely: like campaigning for prom queen, it’s gauche. A sampling of the responses:

To the haters, Vázquez-Ger clarifies that, actually, “it’s not about Michelin. It’s about letting people know that we’re always improving.” He sees “The Road to the Star” as a marketing campaign aimed more at the dining public than Michelin brass. Vázquez-Ger says that Seven Reason’s Michelin campaign won’t involve any back-channeling, even if such a thing were possible: “I have no contact with them aside from the emails they send.”

“I’m putting out there an excuse for people to come back,” Vázquez-Ger says. “We thought not to be controversial, but to make people say, ‘Oh, wow, this is different.'”

He may have the last laugh, given that he got our attention… and we’re now going to tell you about the changes in store for Seven Reasons.

Beginning July 5, the restaurant will replace its a la carte menu with a prix-fixe one—likely priced around $80 to $85 for four courses—in the first and second floor dining rooms. It’ll also have a pricier chef’s table tasting menu, similar to the Michelin-starred one at Imperfecto. (Michelin loves a fussy tasting menu, after all.) The bar will still serve cocktails and snacks, and the patio will become a ceviche/crudo bar for the summer.

Beyond the glory and good feelings that come with a Michelin star, Vázquez-Ger also sees a financial incentive to aspire for one. Imperfecto’s business went up 30 to 40 percent for the whole dining room in the weeks following its star announcement. The Chef’s Table was “doing OK” but not previously booking up every night. Now, it’s typically sold out weeks in advance.

Though Seven Reasons is the only place we’ve seen with an “official” Michelin campaign, it’s not the first place to put its starry eyed ambitious out into the world. The Inn at Little Washington’s Patrick O’Connell essentially modeled his restaurant after Europe’s small town Michelin restaurants and lobbied for a DC-area edition of the little red book. He made no secret of his desire for three stars, which he ultimately received for the first time in 2019.

“If in one year we get a star, that’s amazing,” Vázquez-Ger says. “And if not, we don’t care because we had a lot of fun.”

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.