a plate with food on it

It’s like leaving Tupac off a greatest rapper list…

Cape Town, South Africa is a place that tends to bond people. During downtime from a panel this week, I found myself in conversation with world famous Patissier, chef Eric Lanlard, aka “Cake Boy“. The conversation naturally shifted to a love of travel, which quickly shifted to great food. Eric had just returned from another visit to Cape Town, South Africa, one of our mutual favorite places on earth and neither of us could fathom how the city had managed to elude inclusion in the Michelin Guide – again.

35857495 - colorful bathhouses at muizenberg, cape town, south africa, standing in a row.Know this: the Michelin Guide is not the end all or be all to good food, but it’s not far off either. A quick browse through the 1, 2 and 3 star restaurants in various cities around the world is a cheat sheet to dependably great meals. It takes a city such as New York, with over 10,000 TripAdvisor listed restaurants and cuts it down to 75 Michelin Starred options. Are there incredible bites in New York without a star? Of course, but the guide is generally an excellent indicator of the very best.

When traveling, foodies naturally seek this sort of helpful curation to their culinary experiences. There’s just one problem: the guide has, as of yet, failed to recognize some of the greatest food cities on earth. It could be said that depriving Cape Town restaurants of Michelin star recognition is like leaving Tupac off of a greatest rapper list. It’s sacrilege. Like the greatest of musical artists, chefs don’t play for Michelin recognition. In fact, some have asked to dismiss the honors entirely. But for emerging countries, cities and chefs, it’s an honor which can transform the lives of all involved, from bus boys to wait staff, line cooks and sommeliers.

Michelin Guide Cities 2019In America, New York, Chicago, Washington DC and San Francisco are the only four cities recognized. In Asia – Singapore, Japan, Taipei, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Seoul are the only countries, cities recognized with a Michelin Guide. Sure, that’s fairly extensive, but you’re missing out on gems such as Vietnam, Laos and areas of Mainland China. Australia, famed for some of the world’s best farm to table cuisine, pastry and coffee is also nowhere to be found. Melbourne is easily one of the world’s greatest culinary cities.

There’s no question that parsing through thousands of restaurants, and even hawker stalls in each city around the world is a daunting endeavor. Like many great things, full coverage will likely come eventually. But at the same time, one can’t help but wonder how a city such as Cape Town, where fine dining is experiencing a true belle Epoque style renaissance and avant-garde chefs are pushing boundaries, can lack inclusion. The same could be said for Mumbai, Austin, Buenos Aires, Seattle or even – dare I say – Pittsburgh. It’s a big world out there, and people just want to take a great bite.

Featured image: Osteria Francescana – Modena, Italy.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Every area the Michelin Guide covers needs inspectors to visit ALL of the restaurants there. It costs them a ton of money to be that thorough, and they won’t turn a profit if it’s in an area where residents/travelers won’t buy the book.

    The best example is Las Vegas: They thought it would be profitable to cover that area, but after it turned-out to not be profitable, they pulled it.

  2. I have an on again, off again relationship with the Michelin system. Seeing chefs return or turn down stars is surprising yet understandable. But why cities like Cape Town are excluded is frustrating. It can’t be from lack of resources. Hopefully, things will change.

  3. Kyoto has the most Michelin starred restaurants per capita in the world (although San Sebastián may disagree) so not just Tokyo. Although India now also has one so maybe this article is a bit crap

  4. When is Japan a city?

    Japan has so many cities with their own Michelin guide. Nice of you to bucket them into one.

    1. That’s your one and only takeaway? Japan is one of the few countries to have coverage, whereas most other locations are cities only.

      Enjoy your day.

  5. Where would you recommend I shouldn’t miss to eat in Cape Town, when only 2 days there? Thanks to your early information about the #BA100 golden-tickets to Cape Town, where I got 2 for a weekend 😀😆🤪

  6. I appreciate the love of Cape town. It’s a great city with a fantastic food culture.
    But the standard of cooking isn’t that high as compared to other cities (Bangkok, for example) and though there are a few great restaurants they are few and far between. I estimate there are about 10 restaurants of star quality, with only the Test Kitchen deserving two.

    Mumbai has even lesser that are star quality with only Masque that is at a 2 star standard.

    That’s not worth the effort for Michelin

    Source: I worked at the Test kitchen and I’m from Mumbai.

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