The Michelin guide Kyoto-Osaka 2010 was released on Oct 16. Listed in the book are 147 restaurants, including the high-end Hyotei and Kyoto Kiccho Arashiyama, both of which earned 3 stars.
Another 18 restaurants and two ryokans are on the list, all of which had declined Michelin’s request for a photo shoot. They may have had various reasons for refusing, but their response to Shukan Post’s interview revealed a chasm of an entirely different nature between the restaurants and Michelin.
The owner of Rikichi, awarded 1 star, comments, “Someone from Michelin contacted us for an interview which I declined. And this is what the person said – that so long as we operate a restaurant, it is a given that we should be evaluated. Seriously, who cares? Our only concern is our customers, whether they come from next door, who dine at our restaurant and enjoy our food.”
Another 1 star restaurant that also refused to be interviewed by Michelin went so far to say that they would change their telephone number if they got listed in the guide.
The negative reaction on the part of these restaurants has to do with what is perceived as Michelin’s pompous attitude. According to a gourmet journalist, the representative of Michelin guide Kyoto-Osaka made statements such as “those who refuse our evaluation should choose a different occupation” at a September press conference and went ahead in listing those that expressly declined to be reviewed.
While it may be an honor for restaurants in Europe to be evaluated by Michelin, long-established Kyoto restaurants cherish their distinct cuisine tradition, history and culture. From their perspective, the patron’s review is far more important than what the French think.
The appreciation of such cultural differences in values and culinary professionalism may be too much to ask for.