The Real Reason No Canadian Restaurants Have Michelin Stars

While some of us might feel more comfortable with a home cooked meal or takeout, there's an entire institution responsible for classifying some of the world's finest restaurants. The Michelin Guide has been published yearly since 1900, determining which restaurants worldwide meet their high standards of quality (via the Michelin Guide). Though its star rating system is esteemed by epicureans, the guide was first developed for motorists. Yes, this is indeed the same Michelin as the inflated white Michelin tire man!

In the 1920s, the Michelin Guide started awarding stars to restaurants, based on a rigorous classification process involving highly trained inspectors. The meticulous assessment looks at quality, creativity, and consistency among other factors. Starred restaurants often have a hefty price tag, but some exceptions exist such as a food stall in Singapore (via Insider). 

Fast forward 100 years, and a ranking in the three tier star rating system is still a goal for many ambitious chefs across the globe. Despite the fact that 30 countries and around 3,000 restaurants are included in the starred valuations, there's a total absence in Canada. The majority of Michelin star restaurants can be found in Europe and Asia, with a sprinkling in the United States and South America (via the Michelin website). Canada often finds itself in the shadow of its neighbor, but does the lack of Michelin stars reflect the quality of dining across the country? 

Is Canada's dining scene up to the standards?

According to Fine Dining Lovers, when asked, a Michelin spokesperson remained vague about the absence of Canadian locations and stated the guide was always seeking new places. There's plenty of speculation as to why Canada is omitted from the list, though many Canadian chefs don't seem to mind all that much. Celebrity chef Ricardo points out that the Michelin Guide is a French rating and doesn't have to exist everywhere in the world (via Frenchly). Additionally, some chefs in Toronto told the National Post that the absence of Michelin in Canada means they feel free to branch out from rigid expectations of fine dining, resulting in greater innovation. Since 2015, Canada has its own list with the top 100 restaurants across the country to praise the local styles and flavors.

Businessman Nick Di Donato tells BlogTO that he believes the reason Michelin hasn't made it to Canada's biggest city, Toronto, is because the investment required to establish the system in a new city would be incredibly high. Furthermore, launching the Michelin Guide in Canada would involve a great deal of research across cities with enviable dining scenes, each reflecting their own cultural and geographical influences. This doesn't come cheap and the Michelin Guide is, above all, a profit-seeking business. 

However, it isn't always fair play. Eater describes how various tourism boards in Asia have commissioned the guide for their own countries, placing the authenticity of the ratings into question.

It's time for Canadians to praise local talent

James Chatto, co-founder and judge of the Canadian Culinary Championships, thinks that the casual style of dining in Canada simply falls outside Michelin standards (via the Ottawa Citizen). Additionally, Normand Laprise, one of Canada's finest chefs, also agrees that expensive-tasting menu dining is not so common among Canadians. Meanwhile, Claudia McNeilly at the National Post suggests the fault lies in Canadian diners who don't encourage local talent. She believes Canadians seek quick and easy dishes, noting the obsession with food trends versus consistent quality. According to McNeilly, when Canadians begin to believe in their own chefs and the culinary potential of their country, so will the rest of the world. Retired restaurant critic Anne DesBrisay concurs, telling the Ottawa Citizen that Canadians don't do justice to their own thriving culinary scene.

Although the lack of Michelin stars might dissuade some foodies from visiting Canada, culinary tourism is continuously expanding and you could be in for a nice treat. It seems the Michelin Guide has noticed this too when it made Toronto the first stop on a series called Michelin on the Road (via the National Post). With a country spanning thousands of miles from the Pacific to the Atlantic coast, the abundance of local ingredients is noteworthy. Whether the Michelin Guide eventually makes its way to Canada or not, those in the know will continue delighting in the range of flavors that make up the Canadian palate.