It hasn’t happened. Yet. But it does seem to be in the works. Full stop. Que? Suzie Sponder, Senior Director of Communications at the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, confirmed there is not only interest, but there should also be an update next week when they meet with the Michelin Guide… again. “We are waiting for them to finalize a contract that will be signed between Miami, Visit Florida, Orlando, and St. Pete.” Sure, this isn’t official yet, and it might take a long time for a guide to actually happen. But we are allowed to be a little excited, right? Unlike the other locations already published by the Michelin Guide, Miami is still a young food city with complex culinary influences. At the core, passion and hard work with a mix of scrappy and glam give us that desirable edge so many are only just now discovering. Local gourmands, however, know this has been a long time coming and well-deserved for our city.
Chef Miguel Massens of Heighten Hospitality (formerly at CA’s The French Laundry, NYC’s Daniel and DB Bistro, and Miami’s Three) weighs in on the topic. “So, do we deserve a guide? No. But, do we need a guide? Yes! It should help to raise the overall standard of cuisine and service in the city by forcing competition, attracting better talent, and bringing in discerning diners. Local chefs would have something to shoot for, so the good ones no longer leave to open elsewhere. Farmers would be put to task. Restaurants that got by charging “fine dining” prices for mediocre food and service will face sudden, stiff competition from those who upped their standard. In theory, the end result is a rising tide that lifts all boats. Two recent meals that showed me the potential of Miami were the Versos Sencillos tasting menu at Ariete and the Chef’s Counter menu at (now closed) Alter.” Agreed, chef. After so many years of receiving endless accolades, both local and nationwide, it feels strange to even write this article without including chef Bradley Kilgore. Here is hoping we see more of him soon, and in time for a guide inclusion.
Here is the fourth part of my ongoing Miami Michelin Guide series.
Excited with our revitalized restaurant scene, in 2014, I began speculating on what a Michelin Guide would look like for Miami. Were we truly ready to deliver and compete with New York City, San Francisco, and Chicago? Every couple of years (2014, 2016, 2018), I reevaluated my list and updated my findings. I couldn’t wait to follow up with my 2020 thoughts. This was going to be the one with the all-stars. The one with the breakthrough restaurants and why-the-hell-do-we-not-have-a-guide-yet notes. Honestly, I never could have guessed how severe the pandemic’s impact would be on the industry. But now, I couldn’t be prouder of Miami’s culinary community’s determination to power through a rebuild. A surprising early reopening of our state with relaxed rules (compared to the rest of the country, even now), albeit unchartered territory, meant businesses were allowed to start attempting to move on. And it hasn’t been easy. Even with the hurdles involved in staffing every position imaginable within a restaurant, a wave of outsiders (looking at you New Yorkers and Californians), wanted in and rushed to stake their claim. All in under six months, and they are still arriving. We are now home to a hodgepodge of surviving original concepts led by wildly talented local chefs, well-intentioned pre-Covid pedigreed transplants, and a few loud straggler wannabe Miamian restaurants hoping their out-of-state cash and swag carries them through our usually unforgiving low season. One thing is certain, Miami is in demand and hotter than ever.
Before I finally reveal my new list of who I think deserves a Michelin Guide nod, it is crucial to discuss some very important guidelines and facts many aren’t familiar with or simply choose to overlook. If you read anything closely on this page, THIS IS IT. Read it, learn it, and please stop referring to places and chefs in Miami as “Michelin-starred.”
- In the United States, the Michelin Guide is ONLY published in California, New York City & Westchester County, Chicago, and Washington D.C. That’s it. I don’t care what you heard. THAT. IS. IT. Only restaurants in these areas can authentically claim to have a starred restaurant.
- “Restaurants may receive zero to 3 stars for the quality of their food based on five criteria: quality of the ingredients used, mastery of flavor and cooking techniques, the personality of the chef in his cuisine, value for money, and consistency between visits.”
- “Restaurant inspectors do not look at the interior decor, table setting, or service quality when awarding stars – these are instead indicated by the number of ‘covers’ it receives, represented by the fork and spoon symbol.”
- “There’s no such thing as a Michelin-starred chef. Having worked in a Michelin-starred restaurant or even owning a string of three-starred establishments doesn’t make one a Michelin-starred chef – because the term doesn’t technically exist. The MICHELIN Guide awards stars to restaurants based on the quality of the food they serve, and not to individuals. Aptly too, as world-class meals are often the collective efforts of an entire team, and not one man (or woman) alone.“
- “Chefs can’t take off with the stars, nor do the stars transfer to another restaurant owned by the same chef. If a chef who runs a Michelin-starred restaurant in Spain opens a new restaurant in Hong Kong, this does not automatically make the latter a Michelin-starred restaurant.“
- The MICHELIN Guide isn’t only about fine dining and fancy restaurants. Globally, stars have been awarded to a wide spectrum of restaurants.
I feel strongly about the following restaurants I have named below as strong contenders for inclusion in our guide. As an avid food enthusiast, I’ve spent the last thirteen years, not only scoping out and supporting Miami’s restaurants, but also traveling solely to dine all over the country (with an emphasis on Michelin dining). Will truly “travel for food.” To say this has been an ongoing adventure is to put it lightly. Each dinner has been a humbling learning experience. This journey has taught me about passion, perseverance, and the relentless pursuit of perfection. These chefs have left it all on the line. Our reemerging electric dining scene is not slowing down anytime soon. Perhaps it’s my Miami pride, but during a visit to D.C. in its second year with an official Michelin Guide, I kept thinking about our restaurants while dining there. Why not us? On the list then? One three-starred restaurant, a couple of two-starred recipients, and a handful of one-starred locations. I don’t think we would come out of the gate with any three-star contenders, but we most definitely have great candidates otherwise.
Listed in alphabetical order
You might notice I also included several restaurants that have already been placed in guides in D.C. and NYC. All of them either opened before 2020 or were in the works pre-pandemic. No, I didn’t include Miami newcomer Carbone, one-starred in the New York Michelin Guide. I will save my detailed thoughts on that for a separate post another day. Coincidentally, I recently spoke about the guide with former New York Carbone chef Luciana Giagrandi and Alex Meyer of Miami’s Boia De. “For the dining scene in general, it would be a great boon for the city. There are diners who are so focused on the guide and literally travel the world based on its recommendations. Miami would be introduced to a whole new set of knowledgeable food consumers. And it has always been our strong belief that the diners push restaurant scenes to evolve, grow, and improve themselves. Progress doesn’t happen in a vacuum.” Amen! I love that insight. Even if Michelin-style dining isn’t something every diner pursues, it’s important to see the big picture and embrace the potential it would bring to South Florida: a step forward in elevating our restaurant community. Not to worry, the fritas and pastelitos will never ever leave Miami.
Danny Ganem, executive chef at Fiola Miami in Coral Gables, agrees, “Throughout the years, the dream to have the guide in Miami was always there, but not very realistic. In the past two to three years, there have been whispers and talks that Miami was becoming a desired city for Michelin-starred chefs to open restaurants (like Joël Robuchon, Thomas Keller, and Fabio Trabocchi). This has helped the Miami palate get more sophisticated and knowledgeable. Now the local diner can demand for that experience and perfection.”
No stranger to the Michelin Guide, Miami’s David Foulquier (of NYC’s one Michelin-starred Sushi Noz, Miami’s Fooq’s and Eleventh Street Pizza), knows Miami is a city that is “…tremendously on the rise with global chefs and restaurateurs coming from all over the world. We are starting to adhere to a certain standard that I think Michelin will undoubtedly start to notice. If we get enough lobbying from our great people and local government, which I know is already happening, I don’t see a reason why there shouldn’t be a Michelin Guide: Miami sometime in the next few years. Obviously, there are a lot of things that need to happen to make that happen, but I’m pulling for it.”
Ariete Hospitality Group chef-owner, Michael Beltran, sums it up, “The growth of Miami dining has been the result of a long road of hard work and dedication by so many. Legends like Norman, Michelle, Michael, and Hedy have set the tone for this conversation. The idea of Michelin stars here in Miami started a long time ago and has continued to be steady because of the work of the talent here in this city. I believe Miami, to further solidify itself as a food destination, just seems like the natural next step in our growth. I, for one, set myself to that standard daily, and I know plenty of others that do the same also.“
Nothing is official yet. We might not even know for a while. This year? Next year? When will the top-secret undercover inspectors arrive? Have they already visited? In the meantime, don’t be surprised to find those Miami restaurants interested in the Michelin Guide paying a little more attention to their product quality, plating, service, and details surrounding the overall experience they offer.
As for me, I am packing my bags and driving to St. Pete now. Color me confused about that area’s Michelin potential. Who wants to fill me in? Anyone? Bueller? Or do I have to wait for the published guide to find out?
PAST MICHELIN ARTICLES: