Michelin inspectors: dining detectives or normal diners?



South Africa does not have the Michelin Star Restaurant rating system, because there are not enough Michelin tyres sold in our country, it is said.

Yet when travelling overseas, eating at Michelin one, two or three starred restaurants has an intrigue,  because they appear to be far better than our own local best restaurants, which is not necessarily the case at all.

We are proud to have two South African chefs linked to two Michelin star restaurants: Chef Jan-Hendrik van der Westhuizen owns one star JAN Restaurant in Nice, awarded for the seventh time earlier this year, and Chef Jean Delport heads up the one star Restaurant Interlude at Leonardslee Gardens in the UK, the star having been awarded for three years running. Co-incidentally both chefs studied at the former Chefs School at Zevenwacht. 

I received the latest Michelin newsletter recently, and was interested in its article about how the Michelin inspectors review restaurants, a rating system introduced in 1933 in France for the first time. Now there are Michelin Guides in 39 countries in the world.

  1.  Michelin inspectors remain anonymous and independent, wishing to appear to be normal restaurant guests, not overtly making notes in a book during the meal.
  2. The inspectors make a booking under a pseudonym, and pay for their meal in full
  3. To be appointed as an inspector, they must have at least 10 years experience in the restaurant or hotel industry, must have a fine palate, must be objective in judging the establishment impartially, and must be knowledgable about the produce, terroir and culinary cultures of the world.
  4. The inspectors evaluate 5 criteria in the main : quality of ingredients; mastery of culinary techniques; harmony of flavours; the chef’s personality and emotion portrayed in his/her dishes; and consistency throughout the menu and over different visits.
  5. Inspectors are driven by their passion for food, putting themselves into the shoes of restaurant lovers who are guided by the reviews and recommendations.
  6. The star allocation must be unanimous amongst various inspectors visiting an establishment. If there are differences of opinion the establishment is revisited by members of the team until they find consensus.


Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein, My Cape Town Guide/Mein Kapstadt Guide Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein @MyCapeTownGuide

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