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Michelin unveils 11 new one-star eateries
A YEAR after the excitement of the inaugural Michelin Guide in Singapore, Thursday's unveiling of the 2017 edition was a somewhat muted affair.
Raging rumours about three stars for some of last year's two-star winners were put to rest as Joel Robuchon Restaurant remained the only three-star restaurant on the list. Waku Ghin by Tetsuya Wakuda received two stars, seen by the industry as a vindication of the star chef who was awarded just one star last year.
In all, 11 new eateries joined last year's one stars, while two lost their star - Japanese-Italian eatery Terra and the modern Chinese restaurant Forest.
Saint Pierre, Iggy's and Restaurant Labyrinth were among the names which joined the ranks of Jaan, Candlenut, and Cornerhouse. The other new entrants were Braci, Cheek By Jowl, Chef Kang's, Garibaldi, Imperial Treasure Fine Teochew Cuisine, Meta, Summer Palace and Whitegrass.
That makes a total of 38 restaurants and 47 stars this year, compared with 29 eateries and 37 stars in 2016.
There was a brief moment of drama in the two-star category when Shisen Hanten and Shoukouwa were not called to the stage to receive their awards. Fortunately, the mistake was discovered in time, but not without causing minor heart attacks for the Japanese-Chinese restaurant and sushi bar respectively.
"Vindicated," is how Han Li Guang, chef-owner of modern-Singaporean restaurant Labyrinth, feels, now that he's the proud recipient of a coveted star.
"I feel happiness and joy, but it's a bit of a mixed bag because of all the sacrifice and work we've put in as chefs. Of course, you feel anxious and stressed from being dragged into the whole star game where you don't want to lose it. But I see it as a good thing. I'm hoping it'll help business, and from a chef's perspective I hope it opens doors for me to increase awareness about Singapore's cuisine."
For Sebastien Lepinoy, head chef of Les Amis which has seen business grow by 10 to 15 per cent since the restaurant won two stars last year, his quest for the third star continues, saying that he has given himself three years to do so.
"When you have two stars, your impact is regional," he explains. "When I had one star in Hong Kong (with Cepage) my reach was limited to that area. But I know that when a restaurant gets three stars its market becomes international."
Beppe De Vito, of the Italian restaurant Braci, is one of two Italian restaurants to make their debut on the list. "We didn't expect it. We're not working for stars but if that's what the standards are, then this award lets people know what we do. We must have been lucky inspectors came to visit us at the right time."
For fellow Italian, Roberto Galetti of Garibaldi, the award means "shaking" up the comfortable existence of a 15-year-old restaurant, and a stable family life. "Now I need to work hard again but I'm happy and excited. I will do this for my team and my family and I hope to be here again next year."
Rishi Naleendra of Cheek By Jowl was speechless.
"It's pretty unreal. It's a chef's dream. But I would have been happy with just a recognition. As a team, we never worked for a star or to be in the list, but we just did things that made us happy and made us want to be chefs every day. It's nice to be recognised. It's amazing."
For Sunok Kim of Meta: "It's amazing but tomorrow I'm just going back into the kitchen. I'm sure there will be more foreigners but nothing much to change because I have a small restaurant."
Tetsuya Wakuda was visibly pleased to be upgraded to two stars. "But we have to push ourselves harder. We never think this is good enough. It's always about working harder."
When asked how the decision was made to remove two restaurants from the list, international director of Michelin Guides, Michael Ellis explains: "I don't address specifics but there are several possible reasons. First is closure, obviously. Second is change of chef. Third is change of concept. Fourth is if quality just isn't there. That's the hardest part of what we do. Having said that, just because you lose a star one year doesn't mean you can't get it back the next."
Additional reporting by Kimberly Chan