The Michelin Guide has parked itself in Florida.
Thursday night in Orlando, the illustrious restaurant raters/tire company announced the first Sunshine State restaurants to earn its coveted stars as well as its Bib Gourmand awards, a sort of honorable mention for “good quality, good value restaurants,” per Michelin’s website.
Miami topped the Michelin list with 11 starred restaurants, led by L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, the only Florida restaurant to earn two out of a perfect three stars. Miami also swept up 19 Bib Gourmands. Four Orlando restaurants received one star, while seven earned Bib Gourmands. Tampa was left star-less, though the area did take home three Bibs.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Miami, Orlando and Tampa were the extent of the state’s Michelin honorees. Those areas’ tourism bureaus joined forces with Visit Florida, ponying up more than $1 million to bring the Michelin Guide to the state, according to reporting from the Miami Herald and Orlando Sentinel.
“Visit Florida, along with our destination partners, Visit Orlando, Visit Tampa Bay and the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, are thrilled to partner with Michelin to develop a Michelin Guide to further establish Florida as a world-renowned culinary destination,” Dana Young, president and CEO of Visit Florida, said in a November 2021 news release.
That no restaurant in Southwest Florida made this first Michelin Guide came as little surprise to the many local chefs who have grown frustratedly accustomed to being overlooked by national and international outlets.
Some were even relieved.
Jeanie Roland, chef-owner of The Perfect Caper in Punta Gorda, is a seven-time James Beard Foundation nominee for “Best Chef: South.” She’s made multiple Food Network appearances and has won a drawer-ful of Golden Spoon Awards. Would she have liked a Michelin star?
“Honestly, no. I don’t think downtown Punta Gorda is an area made for that,” she said. “I think for a small entrepreneur like myself, it would be cost-prohibitive to get a star and then jump through all the hoops required to keep or build on that rating.”
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Roland has heard horror stories of chefs burning out while chasing their Michelin dreams: pouring millions of dollars into their restaurants, completely re-imagining their menus and dining areas to cater to Michelin’s tastes, and then closing years or even months after finally earning their stars.
Florida is only the fifth region of the U.S. to attract Michelin’s so-called “inspectors,” joining New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago and California.
According to Michelin’s website, its international inspectors have judged restaurants by the same criteria since the first Michelin Guide was compiled in 1900. They say they’re looking for: 1. Quality products; 2. Mastery of flavor and cooking techniques; 3. Personality of the chef in the cuisine; 4. Value for money; and 5. Consistency of food.
The Michelin Guide awards one to three stars to restaurants it deems noteworthy. One Michelin star denotes “a very good restaurant in this category,” per Michelin’s site. Two stars means “excellent cooking, worth a detour.” And an illustrious three stars equates to “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.”
Only 13 restaurants in the United States hold all three of those prestigious stars. Five are in New York City, six are in California, and one each are in Chicago and the D.C. area.
Corinne Ryan, owner of Sails on Fifth Avenue South in Naples, still holds the Michelin Guide in high esteem. She sees the stars as recognition for years of steady and devoted work, recognition she hopes will soon come to Naples.
“We have so much excellence here, and it deserves to be recognized,” Ryan said. “It would be great for Naples in general to become even more of a destination for foodies, and the Michelin Guide can do that.”
Ryan said she and her husband/business partner, Veljko Pavicevic, plan trips to New York and Europe specifically to visit Michelin-rated restaurants. When the couple opened Sails in 2018, they exclusively hired staff with experience in Michelin-rated establishments or places rated a perfect five stars by Forbes.
Sails’ new prix-fixe tasting menu from Executive Chef Darren Veilleux, its luxurious design, its top-notch staff — all are part of Ryan and Pavicevic’s efforts to earn a Michelin star.
“This is a very affluent town. I think we have the funds to attract Michelin, so maybe we just need to point them in the right direction,” Ryan said. “I know there’d be several restaurateurs in town that would benefit from that. When we work as hard as we do, that little bit of recognition from Michelin makes it all worth while. It means you’re operating on a world-class level.
“At least Michelin is in Florida. That’s the first step.”
Which Florida restaurants won Michelin stars?
Orlando Michelin star restaurants
Capa – one star
Soseki – one star
Kadence – one star
Knife & Spoon – one star
Miami Michelin star restaurants
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon Miami – two stars
Ariete – one star
Boia De – one star
Cote Miami – one star
The Den at Sushi Azabu Miami – one star
Elcielo Miami – one star
Hiden – one star
Le Jardinier Miami – one star
Los Félix – one star
Stubborn Seed – one star
The Surf Club Restaurant – one star
For a complete list of Michelin-rated restaurants in Florida, visit michelinmedia.com.