Michelin Chef Reveals What It's Really Like To Earn And Keep A Michelin Star

Michelin-starred restaurants are few and far between, as befits an award given to restaurants that meet only the highest of standards. As the Michelin Guide shows, in the entire United States, only 187 restaurants currently have one or more Michelin Stars, and our neighbor to the north (Canada) has no Michelin-starred restaurants at all. In fact, the global version of the Michelin Guide shows that only 36 countries in the entire world have starred restaurants. Inside the U.S., there are only a few regions where Michelin Stars can be found — those being the usual suspects of New York, Chicago, the D.C. metro area, and California.

With Michelin Star establishments being such an exclusive club, it must be a pretty big deal for a restaurant to have the Michelin Guide deem them star-worthy, right? Gary Menes, a chef at Los Angeles' Michelin-starred Le Comptoir, tells Mashed this achievement is "something ... only dreamt about as a young cook," and says earning this star after so many years in the business (26, in his case) means "you tend to cherish it a little more and work harder!" After all, according to Menes, chefs don't just stumble upon stars. He admits "there is a little bit more pressure to cook better every day once you receive a nod from the Guide," explaining that being a star-holder means he and his kitchen staff now "have the honor to maintain the standards of the oldest guide in the world."

How the Michelin star can benefit a chef

A Michelin Star is not only the highest compliment a restaurant can earn but can also mean a major increase in revenue. Menes tells Mashed that "business jumped 25% the first month" after Le Comptoir was awarded its one star, and was up 50% by year's end. Why the big boost in sales? Menes cites the "instant global recognition" the Guide confers, speculating that "Gourmands look to see what culinary experiences are available to them in a city that they are not familiar with and the Guide is what most turn to."

Chef Menes initially feared that once his restaurant got that Michelin Star, he'd be "left to [my]self with no guidance or encouragement," but was pleased to find out that wasn't the case. He says he had numerous questions about how to retain his star during the pandemic but says that when he queried the Michelin staff, "Each [question] was answered professionally and with compassion." He reveals that "this was the first time I felt like part of a culinary family," but says he has no intention of resting on his laurels. "I do have quiet, humble ambitions of attaining more stars," Menes explains, and says his plan is to "keep my head down and keep working."