Last month’s announcement that the Michelin Guide will now be covering the Toronto market brought a smile to many of the city’s food community, especially restaurateurs who’ve been waiting for this acknowledgement for years. Ironically, the news comes just as the restaurant industry is digging itself out of the massive hole created by the lingering pandemic. Making matters infinitely more challenging, operators in all segments are grappling with one of the worst labour shortages in recent memory.
For Toronto operators, the news is validation the city’s restaurants are considered amongst the finest in the world and represent a diversity of product and style that can confidently compete with the best. It also adds credence to the long-held belief that Canada’s largest city — and one of the most multicultural destinations in the world — is worthy to be part of this exclusive enclave of only 14 destinations in the world that have a Michelin Guide. Only 134 restaurants have achieved three-star status, representing what Gwendall Poullennec, international director of the Michelin Guides refers to as “la crème de la crème.”
Poullennec was in Toronto last month to make the announcement and was also interviewed a day later by Toronto chef Trevor Lui during a session at the Restaurants Canada show, where he stressed the Michelin ratings represent more than just an acknowledgment of quality products — but are also about the mastery of flavours and cooking techniques, the personality of the chef in the cuisine and the consistency between each visit.
Certainly, the Michelin ratings will provide Toronto with the international exposure it craves and, says Poullennec, operators can expect a 30 to 40-per-cent increase in business for restaurants presented with a Michelin Star. He also added consumers typically stay longer in a Michelin-rated restaurant and spend more money.
While the news is both welcome and timely, it creates additional pressure for the restaurant community to ensure staffing levels can match the vigorous demands imposed by critics who will be grading the city’s best restaurants at a time when so many operators are re-thinking their business models, dealing with supply-chain issues and doing their best to address the systemic flaws that have come to light through the past two years.
Arguably, Michelin is the most influential seal of approval for gourmets and gourmands and undoubtedly will put Toronto on the culinary map and stimulate the visitor economy.
While the Michelin Guide may be just what the doctor ordered to fuel interest in the restaurant community, the real prescription for success in this new era will require a more holistic approach to dining that ensures excellence in all facets of a restaurant operation.