Posted June 22, 2012 by renospiteri in Uncategorized

Restaurant Awards & Quality Recognition.

I have recently read a feature in a food magazine that is distributed free with one of the Sunday newspapers titled “Michelin Man in Malta”. This was quite an interesting feature in which all and sundry were informed that Sig Fausto Arrighi, Director of Guida Michelin Italia was invited by a prominent Italian restauratuer operating in Malta, viz: Sig Pinuccio La Rosa  owner of the signature Ristorante Don Serafino 1953 in St. Julians, for a familiarisation visit which might hopefully sow the initial seeds which might one day blossom into Malta’s inclusion into the Michelin world.
The feature ended with this paragraph: quote ” Indeed the visit by Sig Arrighi could be an exciting first step towards providing the opportunity for local chefs and restaurants to take the formidable Michelin challenge. The road would not be an easy one and discipline and the highest of quality standards in food, ambience and service, would be of paramount importance. Yet many food lovers have felt for a while now that maybe a handful of restaurants in our Islands have what it takes to take the plunge and make the grade. Let’s hope Michelin thinks so too” unquote.

Initiatives like this are very welcome, but these awards are not given because one applies to be considered for them. There is no poll or any type and style of form filling by clients. Restaurants are selected for inspection after very thorough reseach, and of course intial anonymous inspections and the follow-up anonymous inspections. I very much doubt if any establishment would even be considered if it is suspected of cow-towing the organisers.

Gourmet set-up of the highest
 There is no form of any formal application to get these awards, in fact a restaurant will not even have a clue that it is being assessed. It could be assessed by the required anonymous inspections and would still not make the grade even though it would be a top class establishment. I think that before we do aspire to be part of the Michelin world, we have to know what we are trying to aspire to, the procedure that is adopted, the requirements, and the formidable standards that are required to be reached. One has to remember that there is no challenge, or troughs to plunge into, but what is sacrosant is sheer dedication, passion, competence, efficiency, quality observance to the highest ethical and professional culinary knowledge, etc.

An exquisite presentation by a
Maltese Chef.
Having said this, I hasten to add that Maltese Chefs have come a long way in the last decade or so,  through extensive training received through not only ITS,  but also through the  compulsory, required training in overseas establishments even under the guidance of renowned chefs who have achieved in being awarded not only Michelin stars, but also other renowned awards.  Quality of cuisine, preparation and presentation, in some establishments is state of the art, imaginative and superb, but there is still some way to go before we can say that everything is way up there. The excellent and hard work of a top Chef can be ruined by other factors such as service, general attitude, and the whole restaurant set-up.

 What are Michelin Stars?

How Michelin Awards Stars and Their Definition

Typical table arrangement.
What is a “Michelin Star”?
The term “Michelin Star” is a hallmark of fine dining quality — which is pretty funny considering that Michelin is, in fact, a tyre company. But the Michelin company launched its first guide book in 1900 to encourage road tripping in France, and started anonymously reviewing restaurants by means of a three-star system in 1926.

Michelin awards 1-3 stars on the basis of anonymous inspections by reviewers. The reviewers are supposed to concentrate mainly on the quality, mastery of technique, personality and consistency of the food. Interior décor, table setting and service quality are also important.

Since Michelin started in France, the guides are sometimes accused of having a bias towards French cuisine/style/technique, or towards a snobby, formal dining style.

 Michelin Stars Defined:

·         One star: A very good and outstanding restaurant in its category and location.

·         Two stars: Excellent cooking and worth a detour. First class cuisine of its type.

·         Three stars: Exceptional cuisine and worth a special journey. Often extremely expensive, and with an extensive wine list.

Truffle, Caviar and Olives
and a delectable bottle of
Cabernet Sauvignon.

The reason Michelin stars are so coveted is that most restaurants receive no stars at all. For example, in a recent publication of the Michelin Guide for France, 3,531 restaurants are included, but just 548 received a star. Most of these restaurants — 449 — received one-star, 73 received two stars, and 26 received three.

Michelin also awards a “bib gourmand” for quality food at a value price — in for example two courses plus wine and dessert for Eur40 or less, excluding tax or gratuity.

Does every world class chef or establishment make it to Michelin star status?
Far from it. To realise the standard required and how formidable it is to be awarded one or more Michelin Stars here’s a short list of notable Chefs who are outside the Three Michelin Star Club.

New York City is home to many celebrity chefs, but with only seven three-star Michelin restaurants, many bold faced names did not make this most exclusive club.

If you’re wondering what happened to your favorite celeb chef, here are the notables whose restaurants lack a three-star rating. In almost all cases, these restaurants are comparable in price and class with their three-star brothers – and it’s just as challenging to make and secure a reservation.

Joël Robuchon
Joël Robuchon is frequently referred to as the best chef in the world. In fact, the honor was “chef of the century”, and it was bestowed upon him in 1989 by Gault-Millau, a French restaurant guide book. Less than ten years later, Robuchon closed his three-star Michelin restaurants in Paris, Jamin and Restaurant Joël Robuchon, and, at the age of 51, seemed to be heading for an early retirement.

Instead, he started opening up restaurants around the world, including the “LAtelier Joel Robuchon” at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City which managed to be awarded two Michelin Stars in 2012

Gordon Ramsay
Gordon Ramsay is the guy who terrorizes kitchen staff on television, and runs his eponymous three star restaurant in London, among many, many other restaurants. The New York City arm of his empire is Gordon Ramsay at the London. It received two Michelin stars in 2012.

David Chang
David Chang is the creator of the food journal Lucky Peach, a frequent guest on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservation, and he’s presiding over a growing restaurant empire. The flagship is Momofuku Ko, New York City – recieved two stars in 2012.

Mario Batali
Mario Batali, the giant Italian Food Network star in all senses of the word, is involved in a number of restaurants and food ventures in and around New York City and beyond. His Del Pasto Restaurant has one Michelin Star.

Wylie Dufresne
Wylie Dufresne, best known for his molecular gastronomy, practices his witchy ways at “wd-50″ in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Dufresne is a protege of chef  Jean Georges Vongerichten. Dufresne was his sous chef during the opening of Jean Georges,  , and now, Vongeritchen is a partner in wd-50.  Awarded one Michelin Star in 2006 and has retained in through to 2012.

David Bouley
David Bouley, a chef who has worked with a veritable who’s who of chefs and a galaxy of Michelin-starred restaurants. Among other things, he now runs Bouley and a Japanese restaurant called Brushstroke, both with one Michelin star..

Tom Colicchio
Tom Colicchio, the name-you-know-if you-know-no-other from Bravo’s Top Chef made his name at Gramercy Tavern, which he co-founded, and which received one Michelin Star in 2012. His restaurants “Craft” as well as “Coliccho & Sons” both of which are top class establishments which have been honoured with may accolades and other awards have not been awarded any Michelin Stars.

One has to keep in mind, that Michelin Stars once awarded, still remain the property of Michelin, and any restaurant falling below the adjudicating criteria at any time would have the awards withdrawn.

The Malta Story:

So where does this leave us in Malta?  Should we have our own quality awards? Various efforts have been recently made by the Malta Tourism Authority and the MHRA to introduce a kind of “Recommended” scheme, but this was destined to failure from the very start as restaurants were required to apply for the recommended label under payment of a fee if they wanted to be assessed and considered.  This scheme did not appeal to the vast majority of restaurants in Malta and was also proving to be very expensive to all concerned.

Yearly awards bestowed by Wines & Restaurants of Malta . Com http://www.winesandrestaurantsofmalta.com – the connoisseurs’ website
as from 2012.

We are more in favour of a Michelin style type award, by which restaurants are assessed and by not even knowing that they are being assessed. The few that make the grade are then short listed, and further inspections carried out to determine those very few of the highest quality, every year as from this year 2012, that would receive an award. The initial inspection which is carried out by an inspection team of four persons determines the initial standing of the restaurant, and whether or not the two or three following anonymous inspections by qualified adjudicators will be carried out.  

Dishing out hundreds of awards every year through clients’ polls or form filling, or direct application by restaurants is not the best judge of quality, and are archaic systems that leave a lot to be desired and which might also be open to abuse. 

The Marble Certificate.
Award Certificate.
An Outstanding
Restaurant in its Category
and Location.
The Wines and Restaurants of Malta. Com  awards which shall be known as the WRMC-Silver Spoon Awards are designed to address this situation. Quality establishments in Malta, which might receive even a “one Silver Spoon” award will be miles ahead of the competition in their locality and category and will recieve the relevant exposure.  Awards of “the two or the three”, Silver Spoon certifications will be the epitome of success and quality. Awards shall be bestowed on the selected recipients at the beginning of each year commencing in January, 2013 for the 2012 selections.

(Click on the certificate photos to enlarge them and view contents).

The Silver Certificate.
The 2 Silver Spoons
Award Certificate.
Excellent Cuisine  and
Service in its Class.
National reputation.

The adjudicating criteria covers every aspect required and expected, of a quality establishment, and these include among other things: Ambience; Atmosphere and Decor of the restaurant; Table Arrangement including quality of table cloths, napkins, cutlery, glassware, china (plates, dishes, cups and saucers etc); Quality of cuisine and freshness of ingredients; Preparation and Presentation of cuisine;  Service including servers efficiency and knowledge; wine servers; front-of-house deportment and attitude towards clients; The Wine List, quality of wines and mark-up; Value for money in accordance with the restaurants category; The complete dining experience; General Hygiene and cleanliness.

The Gold Certificate.
3 Silver Spoons Award.
Exceptional in all respects:
Cuisine, Service, Ambience.
National reputation.

The website –  http://www.winesandrestaurantsofmalta.com –  is now the leading restaurant review, interactive website in the Maltese Islands with an average log-in of over 4000 visitors every month, and which have now reached about 23,200 visitors;  and our Facebook Group site Restaurants In Malta:The Good;The Bad;The Rip-Offs   http://www.facebook.com/groups/restaurantsinmalta  –  with over 6780 registered members provides an open forum to all members  and through which the more important restaurant industry information is highlighted.

(Note: The Gold Certificate – 3 Silver Spoons Award is the award that all top Chefs and Restaurants should aspire to achieve).

Awards without national and international exposure, recognition, and professional marketing are worthless.  Our established websites, our following and marketing expertise ensures and guarantees not just recognition but the utmost success to the very best culinary establishments in Malta and Gozo, which qualify to be bestowed with one of these awards. As was stated in the opening paragraphs of this feature the task is formidable. Only the best of the very best will even be considered for the awards let alone being bestowed with one. Nevertheless from inspections that we have already made, yes, their might be those impeccable few that will make it.

 We have informed the MHRA through two high level meetings about our intention to bestow these awards, and have also submitted to them our adjudicating criteria documents. We have also informed by means of registered letters both the Ministry of Tourism as well as the Malta Tourism Authority about this ambitious project. The WRMC-Silver Spoon Awards, will one day be the most  highly recognised and most coveted quality awards that any restaurateur and Chef would want to aspire to obtain in Malta.  We do not say this as an idle boast, but because we are receiving consumer backing and support that is second to none in the Maltese Islands.