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After Croatia, Michelin is set to arrive in Slovenia. But do its stars still carry any weight?

29. March 2017 ob 20:26
MMC RTV SLO

Michael Ellis, the international director of the legendary Michelin culinary guides, spoke at the JRE Young Restauranteurs Conference in Lucerne, Switzerland, an event that was also attended by top Slovenian restaurant owners. He stated that Slovenia is next in line for Michelin stars.

According to Ellis, Michelin’s reviewers will soon pay a visit to Slovenia, whose culinary scene has been developing quite rapidly over the few years. Because of the recent success of Ana Roš and her Hiša Franko restaurant, Michelin’s experts became convinced that they could no longer ignore the small Alpine country.

It’s not clear when the reviewers will arrive in Slovenia. It could be as early as this year, or possibly next year, reports the website vivi.si.

Even though Slovenia waited a long time to get its first Michelin stars, considered whether it would be added to Michelin’s guide of European capitals, and then lowered its expectation because of the country’s small target market, the news is coming at a time when Michelin has been losing some of its luster – much like the rock stars of yesteryear who come to play at Ljubljana’s Tivoli Hall at an advanced age.

Over the past few years, Michelin has seen increasing competition from the 50 Best Restaurants list (which in fact includes 100 restaurants). Some consider it as more authoritative than Michelin’s stars. Since yesterday, Slovenia has a restaurant – Hiša Franko – on the 69th spot on that list. It’s also becoming increasingly clear that the system of allocating stars is not transparent and that some decisions are very difficult to justify.

Millions for Michelin
The identity of Michelin’s reviewers is not known to the public, but it’s becoming increasingly apparent that Michelin stars sometimes depend on mutual favors. The problem is not bribery, but rather intense lobbying, which often includes elaborate (i.e., expensive) hosting arrangements for the reviewers. This was most obvious when Croatia recently – and completely unexpectedly -- made it into a Michelin Guide. Croatian restauranteurs had made no effort to hide their extensive, multi-year efforts to lure Michelin to their country – as opposed to the relevant Slovenian authorities, which just passed on such work to the restaurateurs.

The guide once had strict criteria about which country would be eligible for its coverage (the ability of Michelin to sell the guide in sufficient numbers in that country was the chief criterion), but in the case of Croatia, Michelin launched its first-ever online guide, which awarded exactly one start to our neighbors (for the Monte restaurant in Rovinj). In addition, the “Michelin Recommends” section contains a highly dubious list of restaurants, and fails to even mention some of the best.

Kaja Sajovic

Translated by J. B.