Q & A with Jean-Luc Naret of Michelin
Seven Questions for Jean-Luc Naret
On Tuesday, Michelin announced the November publication of a Chicago guide. We talked with Jean-Luc Naret, the worldwide director of the Michelin guides.
D: Have you had your eye on a Chicago guide for a while?
JN: I had my eyes on Chicago since seven years ago when I first visited here. With my first visit ever [to Chicago, I was aware of] an incredible number of restaurants and an incredible number of different experiences. Top-notch molecular avant-garde choices like Alinea. Places like Charlie Trotter’s and others that deliver incredible food.
D: How does the review process work?
JN: An American Chicago team made the Chicago selections over a two-year period. Anonymously. Then we bring in teams established from New York City and San Francisco [where Michelin has published guides]. They follow up on every recommendation. [Then] the people will fly in from Europe. We bring top-notch inspectors from all over the world to confirm the two- and three-star-rated restaurants. [Three stars is Michelin’s top rating.]
D: How do you settle disagreements among the inspectors?
JN: What we will have is a star meeting. I sit down with the Michelin editor-in-chief for the country, and then we have all the inspectors who have traveled to the country. They are in the room and will look at every single restaurant by alphabetical order, and then we discuss about it. [Sometimes,] we send back the inspector.
D: Do you go back with the inspector?
JN: I try to not go with inspectors. They could be in the room, [and] I could have dinner [at another table] with a friend of mine. I am the one being recognized. I make a reservation under my name, [and] the chef is very happy to see me or totally panicking about seeing me. The inspector [and a companion] might be there the same night, looking like a honeymoon couple.
D: What criteria do you look for when considering a city for a Michelin guidebook?
JN: First, the number of restaurants—a good enough number to make a good selection. Second, the level of the cuisine—how many could we possibly get awarded with Michelin stars? Third, are the people there really foodies? Obviously, Chicago meets all the criteria.
D: What do you think distinguishes Chicago dining?
JN: In the spectrum of restaurants here, you can dine for everything from a very good hot dog to restaurants recommended at the top of the world. Such a diversity.
D: Are there any three-star restaurants in Chicago?
JN: I will let you know in November.
“Sacred cows make the tastiest hamburger.” –Abbie Hoffman (1936–1989), American political activist
Eric and Dan Palm of the Matchbox and Silver Palm own Gunner’s, the new tenant of the former Cafe Bionda space at 1467 North Milwaukee Avenue (773-360-7650). Gunner’s, a restaurant and bar that opened June 29th, presents its food the same pragmatic way Matchbox does its cocktails—simple items that distinguish themselves if they’re executed well, such as a BLT. “If you can’t get good tomatoes because it’s January, we aren’t going to do a BLT then,” Eric Palm says. Good idea. No one would know what a BL was, anyway.
Pollack’s Dinner at One. Six One in 148 Words
One. Six One (1251 W. Taylor St.; 312-226-1611) is . . . interesting. I don’t mean that as the kiss of death. Despite the goofy name—which refers to mathematics’ famed golden ratio—the cold and industrial room, and the ditzy service, the food adds up to some pretty good stuff. An amuse of cauliflower soup jazzed with major curry notes was a happening (I couldn’t get my round spoon to cash out the square bowl), as was the too-limey but superfresh seviche. The juicy pan-seared sea bass on crazy-creamy cauliflower purée made me happy, even as I thought, Enough with the cauliflower. Deconstructed cannoli was way too rich—but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t order it again. Was it golden? No. Interesting? Most definitely. If you need another reason to go, the connected lounge, The Bar 10 Doors (1259 W. Taylor St.), opens July 19th.
Unexpectedly, the chefs at Joey's Shrimp House (1432 N. Western Ave.; 773-772-1400), a casual seafood shack on the eastern edge of Humboldt Park, previously worked together at the considerably more upscale Japonais. “This is what we would call a five-star dive,” says Eddie De Jesus, a former Japonais saucier and one of two Joey’s chefs. The other is Abiel Harrison, who was a chef/manager at Japonais. Joey’s, which opened during the last week of June, serves breaded and fried seafood by the pound, along with sides such as a Caribbean-style coleslaw with raisins. “It’s like a fusion of Southern Louisiana–style cooking and Puerto Rican–Caribbean cuisine,” De Jesus says. If you’re sick of French-Japanese, it’s only logical to switch to Louisianan–Puerto Rican–Caribbean.
On the Blog
• Sepia went on vacation to accommodate a Ron Howard film.
• The beer-and-sausage concept Bangers & Lace is coming to Wicker Park.
• The CooKoo Room will occupy the space that housed the short-lived Aldino’s.
• Brasserie Jo will close next month, and Lettuce Entertain You’s Jerrod and R. J. Melman will install an affordable French restaurant in the space.
• Competitive barbecuers plan to open Lillie’s Q on North Avenue next month.
Things to Do
1. Make a reservation for Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation, a gourmet-chef-catered cocktail party on August 12th where 100 percent of ticket proceeds go toward combating childhood hunger. Mindy Segal of HotChocolate headlines this year’s street-food-themed event.
2. Bring your own beverages to May Street Market (1132 W. Grand Ave.; 312-421-5547), which now is BYOB.
3. Eat a free sundae on July 16th at Andy’s Frozen Custard (719 Church St., Evanston; 847-864-8009), which is throwing a grand opening celebration even though it opened in May.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
You probably already heard that Girl & the Goat (809 W. Randolph St.; 312-492-6262) opened Monday. . . . A new alfresco menu at Carlos’ (429 Temple Ave., Highland Park; 847-432-0770) has entrées running $12.50 to $18.50, one of which is a hamburger. Yes, it’s a Kobe burger with green olives and blue cheese, but the sidewalk menu is a far cry from the restaurant’s usual haute cuisine with prices to match. . . . Urban Burger Bar (1578 N. Clybourn Ave., 312-255-0055), which we first heard about in November 2008, has a planned opening of July 15th. . . . Hot Woks Cool Sushi, which now has two locations (3930 N. Pulaski Rd., 30 S. Michigan Ave.), plans to launch two more in the next few months: one at 2032 West Roscoe Street, where Kaze was, and one at 312 West Adams Street, across the street from the Willis Tower. . . . A new website called FineDineDEAL, which is kind of an OpenTable specifically for prix fixe deals, launches today. The site seems like it could be useful for nights with no dinner plans—if a sufficient number of restaurants sign on, as is promised after a 60-day pilot program. . . .Pensiero Ristorante (1566 Oak Ave., Evanston, 847-475-7779) opened yesterday.