Jean-Luc Naret, the charming French directeur of Michelin whose accent is so strong the following transcript is at best interpretive, spoke to us this morning about his early morning ritual of calling each starred chef and informing them of their place in the Michelin empyrean.
It's been a big morning for you. When did your day start?
I have to get up at 4:30 this morning,. I snuck out of my room, My lovely wife being still sleeping at the time and went downstairs. I went straight to CNBC this morning. I was on air with Nicole Lapin live before 300 million people. That was nice. I came back to the hotel and I started to call the chefs.
What order do you go in?
Usually I called the three star chefs first. But this year I called the one star first. Some of them — Kathy Long, for the restaurant Laut was very surprised. I don't think she knew who I was. She was like, "Who is this guy with a French accent calling me in the morning?" She was very happy. [Dovetail's] John Fraser was crying. He was very very happy. I couldn't get April Bloomfield on the phone, she was still sleeping, but I left a message that it is always a pleasure to have a gastropub in New York as good as the gastropubs in London.
Were there lots of tears?
Yes. [Danny Brown Wine Bar & Kitchen's] Danny Brown was very happy to move from a Bib Gourmand to having a star. Then the Japanese. Mr. Soto, who I know very well, was so happy. He was like, "O.M.G." But the most beautiful call was the one I made to [Brooklyn Fare's] Cesar Ramirez and I kept that to the last to tell him that he entered the Michelin guide with two Michelin stars.
Is Eric Ripert a crier or a screamer?
You have people who say "Oh my god!" It's better to say congratulations and hang up on them because they are going to have a very personal moment with themselves.
I notice that at the two-star level, between the Italian and the Japanese, there are a lot of restaurants that end in vowels: Alto, Marea, Soto, Kajitsu, Ko (though it isn't Japanese). Is that indicative on what cuisines are drawing a high level of culinary talent?
We're not looking at the name on the door. We're looking for what's on the plate. It just happens this year there were two Japanese and of course Marea which is newly two-starred.
There doesn't seem to be that much bad news. Who lost their stars?
We've been very lucky this year. No three stars nor two stars lost. There's only a few restaurant that have been closed. There are two that lost their star but because the quality of cuisine they'll get them back next year. One is Perry Street and the other is Insieme.
Also you have the first two-star restaurant — Chef Table at Brooklyn Fare — in Brooklyn?
Well, when you say "worth the detour" that's really what it means. It means, "Cross the bridge and go there guys." It is one of the top restaurants in the world and it deserves attention. It's a dream come true and my best experience throughout this entire process. Have you been there?
You should make your reservation now before it's impossible.
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