Food & Drink

Michelin Guide adds high-dollar restaurant ratings in these Central Coast cities

Michelin will expand its California restaurant guide coverage to include Santa Barbara and Monterey — in addition to the greater Los Angeles and Sacramento, the company announced Tuesday morning.

U.S. guides had previously been limited to the Bay Area; New York City; Washington, D.C.; and Chicago after Michelin stopped visiting Los Angeles and Las Vegas in 2009.

Anonymous Michelin inspectors have already been through the Sacramento area, Visit Sacramento president/CEO Mike Testa said, and the California guide is expected to be released in June. It won’t be known which restaurants are included – or how many stars they received – in the guide until June.

Thomas Keller, the first American with two three-star restaurants — including The French Laundry in Napa Valley — spoke about what Michelin’s expansion meant for the state:

“Michelin has always been the pinnacle of cuisine and what it means to be a chef and restauranteur,” Keller said. “To now have the guide extend to cover all of California, my home state, and include additional cities means there is much more credibility to what we’re doing here.”

Though Michelin is famously secretive about what earns restaurants a star, consistently excellent food and service is a good place to start. Inspectors also highlight “Bib Gourmand” restaurants, or moderately priced options that fall just short of earning a star, and Michelin added the “L’Assiette Michelin” designation last year to recognize all others included in the guidebooks.

Sacramento culinary talent such as Canon chef/co-owner Brad Cecchi, Grange chef Dane Blom and Origami Asian Grill chef/co-owner Scott Ostrander have all worked in Michelin-starred restaurants. Cecchi, who was executive chef when Napa Valley’s Solbar earned a star for the eighth consecutive year in 2016, said Michelin-starred chefs often feel pressure to raise prices and fit a certain mold to retain their status.

“Receiving national recognition is a game-changer for any restaurant, however, that also comes with an immense amount of pressure,” Cecchi said in an email Tuesday. “Maintaining your star, and living up to the expectations, can weigh heavily on a team. We certainly would not have been prepared for that when we first opened 18 months ago – that being said, the fact that the Michelin Guide will now include Sacramento is a huge honor and an incredible opportunity for this city’s dining scene.”

Testa, who led the charge for Sacramento to adopt “America’s Farm To Fork Capital” as its official slogan, began talking to Michelin representatives in 2017. He eventually brought in Visit California as well, which helped convince Michelin to expand its presence throughout the state.

“The effort to expand Michelin’s presence on the West Coast started with Visit Sacramento,” Visit California president/CEO Caroline Beteta said in a media release. “As the discussion grew to encompass the entire state, Visit Sacramento brought Visit California to the table so we could dream big together. We applaud Visit Sacramento’s vision in seeing the tremendous impact Michelin would have not only in the capital region, but across the state.”

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Benjy Egel covers local restaurants and bars for The Sacramento Bee as well as general breaking news and investigative projects. A Sacramento native, he previously covered business for the Amarillo Globe-News in Texas.