Friday, November 30, 2007

Michelin earns no stars and Mr. Gold earns 3

I was going to write this post yesterday. I have serious writing issues as of late. Maybe it's just because I've been tired and a little overwhelmed, but in the end I have no one to blame but myself. That being said, I had this idea to write about the Los Angeles Michelin guide that has (dis)graced our lovely city. My prose in mind were already brewing and I was happy about that. The fact that disdain for something can inspire me is for the most part good. Then I opened this week's LA WEEKLY edition to see what our fearless food guru, Jonathan Gold had to report on. The enthusiasm was let out of my mind. He has mind readers I swear. He'll review a place I was just about to feature but beat me by a day. Not wanting to be one who jumps on a reviewers bandwagon, those reviews get shuffled back for later. Call me caddy but I just want to have no one say anything weird about me. How superficial of me though.

The main thing I walked away from in his article was I quote:

"What bothers me is the guide was so evidently put together as a fly-by-night project showing neither knowledge of nor much respect for Los Angeles, that the usual Hollywood banalities are recycled like so much fryer sludge at the biodiesel plant, and that there is so little imagination at work. In France, at the moment, the main cultural importance of Michelin is as an institution to rebel against, a homogenizing force whose lavish preferences, either real or imagined, jack up prices and fill dining rooms with rich tourists. In Los Angeles, it is merely irrelevant."

My thoughts exactly.

I thought about what may have been well intentioned when the Michelin guide first started in the early 1900's. How the tire company thought about encouraging tourists to try places that they felt were "exceptional". I considered how good it might have been in their own country and or even, generously, all of Europe. But how do these tire people send in their experts to LA? These expert opinion-makers, who always have a strong leaning toward giving French cuisine the highly coveted stars, come into our city, which is home to some of the finest dining in the world, to make quick judgements on who gets scorned and who gets praised. How can these people decide who gets what? Maybe if they were a little more focused by calling it the Michelin Fabulous French Dining guide I wouldn't be so bothered. It equates to rich people declaring themselves experts just because they have money.

I guess in the end I was wondering, "why all the hub bub over this little book?" Someone would get a star and feel like they could charge whatever, thanks to that lovely star. But in the end who gives a rip about how many stars a place got except for the owners of said restaurants?
Aren't we all our own critics? Sure recommendations are always welcome (thank you Jonathan Gold) but let's not cause ourselves to doubt our own taste buds over a tire company. I understand there must always be ratings for things of this nature, but at least let it be from someone who's a "peer" of the city: a person who has lived a life of hearing the gossip about all the spots of LA and has researched them extensively. I felt like they had a job to do in making an LA guide and paid no care to making it the best resource available.

I'd love to see Ford car company send some experts to France and review cheese. Just a thought.

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