Why Michelin Won't Give Any Stars To California Restaurants This Year

Michelin awarded its coveted stars to 90 California restaurants last year (via The Mercury News), but in 2020, California isn't getting any stars at all from the respected restaurant reviewers/ tire makers. No, dining in the golden state hasn't fallen off a cliff in just one year, but a global pandemic and the state's worst wildfire season ever (via Los Angeles Times) have made rating restaurants in 2020 practically impossible. On its website, Michelin said it was hitting the pause button on its California guide and will host a virtual family meal instead to raise money for California food banks. With more than 4.1 million acres burned (via Cal Fire) and more than 16,000 COVID-19 deaths in the state (via The New York Times), maybe Michelin has the right idea. Now is not really the time to celebrate fine dining. Eater Los Angeles states that indoor dining is still prohibited in Los Angeles County, while other areas of the state only allow limited seating.

Despite the pandemic, as Eater Los Angeles reported, Michelin had said back in August it was planning to publish the California guide anyway, based on restaurant visits that happened before the lockdowns. The wildfires that have blown up in the state since then may have changed its mind. Michelin said the decision to pause came after talking to chefs affected by the pandemic and the fires. Tragically, Restaurant at Meadowood, a cherished California establishment with three Michelin stars, burned to the ground in a wildfire this September (via Twitter).

Michelin is helping California food banks, which face greater food insecurity than ever

Michelin decided that though it can't publish its annual guide for California this year, they company does want to help the state. Michelin's virtual family meal on October 27th will include a fundraiser to benefit the California Association of Food Banks, and the Michelin website states that it has already donated 100,000 face masks to the association.

While Michelin won't give out stars at the dinner — or even Michelin Plates (for good food that is not quite star-worthy) or the Bib Gourmand (good food at a good price) — it will sing the praises of several restaurants at the event, which will be streamed on YouTube. The company website says that Michelin's inspectors made some great dining discoveries in California this year, and more than 20 of these will be acknowledged during the dinner. Celebrity chefs will also appear at the "family meal," which in the restaurant industry refers to the meal employees share each day before they open their doors to customers.

The Michelin Guide's decision to help the California Association of Food Banks feels like a natural fit, since both organizations are all about the food. The help is especially timely, since unemployment and other financial pressures brought on by COVID-19 will potentially increase the number of people facing food insecurity by 46 percent this year, according to the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank – many for the first time.