Michelin Guide Recognizes Street Food
Michelin street food coverage is a very new concept. Their Guide was first published by Andre and Edouard Michelin in France, back in 1900. The purpose of the guide was to spread interest in traveling to top restaurants and hotels across the country. As far as getting to those places, the brothers hoped travelers would drive a newly invented automobile. More travel by car meant the need for more tires, and hopefully greater profits for the Michelin tire company. In those days, the Michelin Guide was given away for free.
Michelin “rates over 40,000 establishments in over 24 territories across three continents”
Since 1900, Michelin has become a defining factor in recognizing fine dining establishments throughout the world. Their website states the Michelin Guide “rates over 40,000 establishments in over 24 territories across three continents”.
In 1955 Michelin Guide added a Bib Gourmand section. Its purpose is to recognize quality food in less expensive price ranges. The exact dollar amount varies by country.
In late 2015, Michelin ventured beyond traditional restaurants and began adding street food stalls to Bib Gourmand. This included 23 in Hong Kong and 12 in neighboring Macau.
This week, on July 21, Michelin will release its first Singapore Guide. They have already revealed their 34 Bib Gourmand awards, half of which are found in traditional food centers, otherwise known as street food stalls or hawkers. The reaction from the awarded street food vendors thus far has been very positive. Fanfare attracted by the Michelin Guide generally results in higher demand and longer lines.
Michelin recognizing street food has not been without controversy. Last year in Hong Kong and Macau, some of the local street food diners reported that recognition led to decreased quality as vendors struggled to keep up with demand. Another notable impact was that landlords raised the rent on some vendors, resulting in at least one having to relocate. On the fine dining side, some restaurants have even dubbed unwanted affects of the Guide the Michelin Curse. In a few cases, they asked that their star be removed.
Controversy aside, the future looks bright for chefs behind street food stalls, as their cuisine becomes more widely respected and recognized.
“The more street food we have, the more it’s embraced by every income strata, the better world we have.” – Anthony Bourdain
I can’t help but think of Anthony Bourdain’s words, about the power of street food bringing people together. The concept is that good food, prepared in a street stall and served at a tiny table where people sit shoulder to shoulder can break down separations of social class. At these dining spots on sidewalks, once limited to Asia but now spreading around the world, only one thing matters; sharing a culinary experience with the person next to you.
Will Michelin street food recognition help to raise further interest and bring more people together? If so, which country’s street food will Michelin feature next? Thailand, Vietnam… or somewhere else?