When I travel I go to the restaurant for a need but also because I am curious about the local food and I want to taste the typical recipes. When I am at home I like to go out and to eat in restaurants, but I think that it does not make sense to have the same dishes that I can have at home and prepare by myself. I search for somenthing special and innovative and of course well served, in a lovely location and with a nice setting.
These elements help me in select the restaurants where to go and then I make an evaluation to write on the blog about my best experiences. The questions is: how to evaluate a restaurant? Or better: how I evaluate a restaurant? I am not a food expert, but I like to taste and I try to search for the quality, that sometimes is even in a pizza.
Sometimes to cook something simple in the perfect way it is more difficult than to create something of innovative. Infact if you mix a lot of flavors you can cover a bad taste and the mistakes made during the cooking session. That is why to measure a good cook it should be enough ask to her or to him to prepare a very easy recipe. Anyway let’s go on the restaurants evaluation.
The Michelin stars restaurants
The stars of Michelin guide give to consumers information about the level of a restaurant, as it happens with the hotels. But how they are given to the restaurants and to their chefs. Since 1926 the experts of the famous tires’ brand are going to visit places around the world to select the best and recognize their high quality with the stars, from one to three.
What is the meaning of the stars? One means ”very good restaurant in its category”, two represent an ”excellent cuisine” and three stars indicate ”exceptional cuisine”. These are the results, but what are the criteria used to decide how many stars attribute to the restaurants? The parameters are four:
- quality of the product
- preparation technique
- balance between ingredients
- creativity of the chef
The inspectors do not check only these aspects, but they also focus on quality of service, atmosphere, furnishings and location. Every single detail is important and the staff of the restaurant has to take care of all the elements to pass the exam and to give to the customers an high quality experience.
The examinators fill a data sheet with a list of the ingredients of the dishes tasted, then they analyze the setting, the service provided by the staff, the hospitality and the comfort. These elements receive an evaluation with a different symbol: the forks, whose increasing number from 1 to 5 is a function of a huge number of factors. The inspectors has to consider the service, the crowding, the furnishings, the atmosphere, the wine list, all the details including greetings waiters and the arrangement of glasses and cutlery on the table.
Tradition and innovation
In many restaurants is now trendy to follow the tradition, but the best cooks are using it as base. The chef propose the innovation, they mix the traditional recipes with some creativity to give to the guests something new and particular. I like this way especially when I go out to eat around my region. I know the local food, I like it, but it is nice to taste something different that reminds the main ingredients of the tradition.
Another feature of the dishes proposed in many restaurants is the international contamination, that is happening also because the chef are going to work and make experience abroad, so they learn how to prepare local recipes and they use also competences coming from the dishes of their own countries. The result is, in some cases, quite interesting and to discover similar taste and new combination gives the chance to have a journey into the food culture.
The leitmotiv of the cuisine today, proposed and sometimes just respected by the chefs, is the lightness. This is good for the health and of course you can eat a complete mail with more courses without any problems. To be sincere I have to say that on this aspect I agree only in part, because in Italy the tradition in the kitchen is not so light. Why to renounce to the real taste of the territory? I guess it is better eat certain dishes less times, but have them in the proper way. Alto the creativity of the cook should be something not related to find the light way of the preparation, but to give more taste.
As I already wrote I am not an expert, but just a person who loves to eat well and in good places, sometimes in a pizzeria sometimes in a Michelin star restaurant. The recipe and its result it is the most important part of the evaluation for everyone. What I check is the flavor of what the chef propose. A dish must impress, offer a pathway to discover the ingredients and a culture. Every bite is a part of the travel.
If the recipe realized is able to represent this, the grade is high. Then of course there are other elements, because a restaurant need to give a unique experience to the guests, not only serving good food. What are you looking at before to enter in a restaurant? Well about me I can say that if it is exposed, I check the menu and then the entrance. Hotels have generally great halls, also when they have awful rooms, but the door and the setting of a restaurant is, most of the times not always, well related to the food offer.
When the chef reach an high level in the kitchen, even if she or he has the chance to develop something new and find other challenges, works on the other parts. Improve the table, the plates and the dining room. Take care of all details is important and I consider an elegant place, with modern or ancient forniture, is lovely, it is something more that helps the atmosphere.
A comfortable table and a spacious dining room with tables well separated is important to give to guests the privacy that they deserve to chat in peace and do not disturb the others or to be disturbed by other guests. The food is the first aspect, but to have the meal in a pleasant place makes the people happy. This is what usually happens to me.
The chef is the main protagonist, but in certain restaurants he is the master, so he (or she of course) needs a good team to be supported in the preparation. The main cook create, gives the idea for the menu, but all of them are working together. This is what happens in Michelin star restaurants. The people in the kitchen are doing the best part, but they are not the only staff members of the restaurant.
Waiters and the maitre have the task to serve properly the plates, the drinks and also they are engaged as councilors. I know, this word is exagerated, but they are most of the times responsible to suggest what to choose, as food and especially as a drink, selecting the proper wine according to the dishes.
They need to have competences for that, they need to know how to serve, starting from the right side from where to put the plate. Waiters have also to be kind, to answer properly to the question of the guests and to fill empty glasses mantaining the right level. The customer of the restaurant must be at the centre of the attention during all meal, this is what the staff have to take into consideration to do its work correctly.
These elements help me to do an evaluation, even if I am not a professional inspector, I do the selections following a bit the procedure of the Michelin star experts. If a restaurant make me happy and I want to visit it again, this means that I can write about it on my blog and suggest you to try the same experience.