We had a chance to chat with Paris-based Michelin director Michael Ellis today, on the eve of the release of the Michelin Guide San Francisco, Bay Area & Wine Country 2013 edition, about his thoughts on the restaurants that made the cut and what makes our part of the world so special. Here's what he had to say:
On San Francisco and its food scene: "I have a particular appreciation for California in general and San Francisco in particular, because I spent quite a lot of time when I was growing up there. I have a particular attachment to the west coast. What I like about San Francisco is that there's such an incredible mix of classic European, Asian influence, and great California products. There are a lot of things you find in San Francisco that you don't find elsewhere - you find a very bold use of European techniques with Asian twists. Fusion is an overused word, but in San Francisco it really means something."
On the new one-star recipients: "It's a great list. Keiko's been doing some interesting things in a classic environment. We were very happy to find All Spice - we're trying to look outside, a bit off the beaten path, trying to find people that are doing some unique, special things, that might not necessarily be on anyone's radar."
On Dominique Crenn and her second star: "Certainly, the big news this year is Atelier Crenn. For me, she is really a unique artist. We're very happy that she's gotten two stars, well deserved. The aesthetics of what she does is unique anywhere."
On the Guide and how it's changing: "It's very important for us to stay in tune with what people are looking for from a guide. We've added cocktail lists, sake lists, beer lists, dim sum lists. We have restaurants that are serving breakfast now, and small plates lists. We don't determine the gastronomic trends or tell people what to do - our job is to find out what's going on, in the trenches, in the restaurants, what the chefs are cooking, what people want to eat, and show the people who's doing it the best in the market. We really try to be a barometer of what's going on as opposed to a signpost."
Final thoughts: "It's not all about the stars, of course, but everybody does want to get a star. I'm quite hopeful, expectant that there will be more stars, and more three stars, in San Francisco."
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