Last night I hit a screening room in Times Square for a showing of 2010’s Three Stars, a documentary by media historian and award-winning filmmaker and journalist Lutz Hachmeister. Am I a little over two years late? You bet, but I just can’t turn down a movie I didn’t pay $16 for. Plus, no sticky floor, which is nice because the subject matter at hand has no tolerance for such thing: the world of three-star Michelin restaurants. I thought I knew what distinguished two-stars from the elusive three, but I had no idea.
The documentary follows crowd-pleasers like Jean-Georges Vongerichten, René Redzepi and Hideki Ishikawa as well as key players you may not know, like Sven Elverfeld of Aqua in Wolfsburg, Germany; Sergio Herman of Oud Sluis in the Netherlands; and especially the Arzak family of San Sebastian’s Arzak during a day in the life of running one of the world’s gastronomic temples.
When I realized halfway through the film that this wasn’t an advance screening but simply a showing, I started thinking about the last two years of development in molecular gastronomy and haute-est of the haute cuisine and what has happened since the film premiered. el Bulli shut down, the Michelin iPhone app was released, the Osaka-Kyoto-Kobe and Hokkaido regions of Japan as well as Chicago’s much-hyped haute dining scenes earned their first stars, the number of 3-starred restaurants increased over 30% and, maybe most surprisingly, people still care.
The different between two and three stars, as I learned, is a combination of soul, art, luck, grit and possibly divine intervention. There is next to no reason one ethereal restaurant should have two instead of three except that the network of Michelin reviewers and the establishment itself is very firmly rooted in food culture’s history and future and stands by their decisions, even if they don’t always make sense to the masses. Contributing editor Matt Rodbard Instagrammed from noma just a few minutes ago, and I’m very excited to hear his take on what pushes this culinary mecca past the two-star mark.
Are these places cost-prohibitive? In most cases. Snooty? Absolutely. But if you compulsively reach for your phone when a waiter sets a perfect plate in front of you, saving up for a 3-star meal every now and then is certainly one of the most authentic ways to invest in and cultivate your personal foodism.
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