EXCEPTIONAL CUISINE WORTH A SPECIAL JOURNEY
By Allison Hogan
André and Édouard Michelin, brothers and heirs to the family’s tire company in France, were entrepreneurs well before Silicon Valley’s tech geniuses. The family supplied tires for the times—in 1900, that meant primarily bicyclists. With fewer than 3000 automobiles registered by the French government that year, cars for the “everyman” seemed a distant dream. But these forward-thinking brothers knew that with more vehicles came the demand for more tires, and the company was primed to be the supplier.
A flat tire—automobile or bicycle— could take hours to fix, and the Michelin brothers wanted to provide options for waiting customers. Initially, André and Édouard compiled a travel guide for visitors passing through their locality of Clermont-Ferrand, in the Auvergne (south- central) region of the country. Along with advertisements, they listed restaurants, gas/ petrol stations and other available local services, distributing the booklets free to motorists getting tires repaired or replaced at Michelin.
Originally this comprehensive publication was called “le Guide Bleu” (the Blue Guide) and its contents were gathered from municipalities and townships throughout the area. It became a “must have” for cyclists and motorists, visitors as well as locals, who used it as a year-round resource. The guide provided maps of the region, and directions to local “tourist attractions”: France’s wealth of grand palaces and cathedrals. (The business-savvy brothers wanted to lure vacationers to more “distant” destinations, figuring the farther people had to go, the quicker they’d wear out their tires!)
As transportation options increased, so did the need for this new, comprehensive source of locally-relevant information.
Soon, André and Édouard realized that dining choices were fast-becoming their customers’ primary requests, and they recognized the importance of referrals and recommendations. In true carpe diem spirit, they began scouting restaurants in nearby provinces, particularly those off the beaten path. Seeking “noteworthy efforts of excellent cooking,” they began sending anonymous inspectors to dine at recommended restaurants, reporting the details of their experiences. While extraordinary meals were the focus of the reviews, the inspectors were instructed to also rate the overall experience, such as linen quality and service. These reviews afforded travelers the opportunity to scout-out little- known jewels—some close to, but bypassed by, more popular routes. In the early days, chauffeurs for well-heeled employers (aka car owners) were often selected to be inspectors. The reasoning was that these “commoners” often took their meals in local spots, without attracting attention; who better to anonymously review the food?
The Blue Guide was published annually until World War I, when it was temporarily suspended (as during World War II). Soon after the first War’s end, the brothers had a marketing revelation: the guide would be considered more prestigious if customers had to pay for it. With Blue Guides already gaining popularity in other European countries, it became an invaluable resource—gratis or not.
1931 welcomed the introduction of a color and subsequent name change – from blue to red, thus becoming the “Michelin Red Guide”—and a ratings hierarchy of stars. The standards, first published in 1936 were:
Then and now, the awarding (or removal) of a Michelin star can make-or-break an establishment seemingly overnight, so the Red Guide’s publication is a much- anticipated (or –dreaded) event. This summer’s Oscar-buzzed movie “The One Hundred Foot Journey” follows a French restauranteur’s pursuit of
a Michelin star. Loosely-based on the true story of Fernand Point, a chef/manager in 1930’s France, the movie reveals the extremes required to compete for the prestigious award. Nothing short of perfection was acceptable: the lightness of a croissant, the spices in a roulade.
Restaurant managers often tested potential chefs by tasking them to prepare a specific dish. For example, novice chefs were asked to “fry an egg” (or, in the movie’s case, an omelet), but this seemingly-simple task had draconian standards. If the chef did not prepare the selection to the manager’s precise specifications, he was dismissed. While such exacting standards eliminated less-skilled cooks, these “boot camp” style indoctrinations trained generations of chefs who went on to have their own Michelin-starred establishments.
Although the Michelin Red Guide is now published in 24 countries, only in the past five years have U.S. restaurants qualified for Michelin ratings. Presently, there are Guides for only three areas of the country: New York City, Chicago and California’s wine regions (Sonoma and Napa). But now, Park City has its own connection to a Michelin dining experience, courtesy of French Chef Jean-Georges Vonderichten. The Chef owns Michelin-starred restaurants on three continents, including the 3-Star “Jean-Georges” in NYC. J&G Grill, at the St. Regis Deer Valley, is also one of the Chef’s personally-created restaurants.
From his initial vision to design and execution, Chef Jean-Georges has overseen every aspect of the restaurant, re-creating many of his award-winning dishes and welcoming the opportunity to share his passion.
J&G Grill’s menu reflects the international culinary journeys of its creator, with distinctive styles and sophisticated flavors. Foremost is the resolve to use fresh ingredients, preferably those locally-sourced.
Many specialties are presented as “small plates,” with a sampling of Chef Jean-Georges’ favorites. “The first bite has to be as exciting as the last bite, otherwise I don’t put it on the menu,” he says. The Chef envisions visits to J&G Grill as the enjoyment of any fine meal – not just for special occasions, and not just for guests of the St. Regis.
Discriminating diners are always welcomed to savor a meal, relax in the luxurious surroundings, and relish its world-renowned service.
Deer Valley has reached for the stars, and Chef Jean-Georges has delivered!