November 1, 2005

NY chefs get first Michelin stars outside Europe

By Richard Satran

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Four of New York's best-known
restaurants won the top "three-star" rating from France's
Michelin on Tuesday, the first time the prestigious ranking has
been given outside Europe.

Le Bernardin, Per Se, Alain Ducasse and Jean-Georges were
cited as "an exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey."

The guide maker decided to publish its first North American
guide in New York this year "because of the city's reputation
as one of the world's leading fine-dining and lodging centers,"
said Jean-Luc Naret, Michelin's director of publications.

Michelin has published its travel guides since 1900, when
the tiremaker decided to promote motoring by guiding Europeans
to the best restaurants. The rankings have evolved into a
coveted prize among Europe's chefs.

But while Michelin has finally come to America, the city's
three-star winners have a decidedly French flavor. Of the four
getting the highest rankings, three were claimed by restaurants
headed by French chefs. The sole American, Per Se's Thomas
Keller, was trained as a chef in France and gained fame for his
French Laundry restaurant in California's Napa Valley.

Of the 54 three-star restaurants worldwide, half are in
France. London has only one, and Paris has 10.

Michelin gave four two-star ratings to places with
"excellent cooking, worth a detour" and one stars to 31, for "a
very good restaurant in its category."

While most of the starred rankings went to French-style
restaurants, Brooklyn steakhouse Peter Luger, downtown's avant
garde WD-50 and sushi innovator Nobu also won starred rankings.

That left 23,000 of the city's restaurants starless.

Tony May, owner of the San Domenico, one of the city's best
known Italian restaurants, said the rankings "are a good thing
for all of New York's restaurants," because they offer an
alternative to the newspaper food reviews and the ubiquitous
Zagat guides, which are based on popular votes.

To compile its rankings, Michelin sent five undercover
inspectors to the city from France last year. The guide reviews
507 city restaurants and 50 hotels. The French guide book maker
said it will expand to other American cities in the near