The Michelin Guide announced Tuesday that it is expanding its coverage to include the entire state of California in a single 2019 guide — meaning that the San Francisco Bay Area, which has had a guide all to itself since 2007, will now have to share space with Southern California and everyone else.
As the Chronicle reports, "San Francisco, home to eight of the guide’s coveted three-star restaurants in the U.S., will continue to anchor the new California-wide edition."
How that "anchoring" will work, however, given the vastness of Los Angeles' food scene, let alone those around San Diego, Santa Barbara and elsewhere.
"San Francisco’s bragging rights as the city with the most three-star restaurants (it has eight, in case anyone’s counting) may no longer hold as much weight as its absorbed into a larger pool," as Eater SF suggests.
But as Los Angeles chef Josef Centeno tells the LA Times, "I just think Michelin is way late."
Los Angeles had a short-lived Michelin Guide of its own (shared with Las Vegas) that launched the same same year as the Bay Area Guide, in 2007. Michelin discontinued the guide just two years later, however, citing the "economic environment" — and word had it that Michelin inspectors were too hard-pressed at the time to find any restaurant worthy of three stars in the region.
That has certainly changed in recent years as food culture in Los Angeles — and everywhere, really — has grown more sophisticated. Michelin spokeswoman Gwendal Poullennec said in a statement, "Our inspectors have been impressed with the talent and innovation within the gastronomic community across the state."
Having edged out New York City as the country's culinary capital — at least in the eyes of Michelin — in recent years, with a whopping 8 three-star restaurants, San Francisco and the surrounding region may start feeling a little bitter about this change. Remember when all the three-star restaurants were outside of SF proper before Benu and Saison came up in the world in 2014?
Also, this marks the first time that the prestigious restaurant review org will have a guide devoted to an entire state — it currently only publishes guides to Chicago, D.C., and New York dining.
While derided by some as antiquated and snobbish in its tastes, Michelin stars nevertheless carry international weight among the foodinista set. First published over 100 years ago, the Michelin Guide began as a promotion for the tire company to help get the people of France out on the road and wearing out their tires, so they'd need to buy new ones.
The criteria for stars seem to vary a bit from region to region, and inspectors claim that they focus entirely on the food and not on service or atmosphere — though almost all three-star restaurants offer extremely high-end examples of both. Historically, the signifiers of each star level have stayed the same, however. One star signifies "a very good restaurant and worth a stop," two stars means "excellent cooking that is worth a detour," and three stars means "exceptional cuisine that is worth a special trip."
Below, SF's current stars, as of last fall. The California-wide guide is reportedly slated for release in June.
The French Laundry
The Restaurant at Meadowood
Single Thread Farm
Auberge du Soleil
Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant
Keiko a Nob Hill
Sons & Daughters
State Bird Provisions
The Village Pub