“The people of Los Angeles are not real foodies… they are not too interested in eating well”.
When the Michelin Guide departed Los Angeles amidst the financial crisis of 2008-2010, the then director couldn’t help but take a parting shot. 10 years later with a fresh start, Angelenos are already up in arms, only days into the guide’s release.
According to Eater, the Michelin Guide received funding to the tune of $600,000 to bring its pop culture acclaimed foodie guides back to Southern California, and just days in, many are wondering why, as the new list disses and dismisses many of the staple elements of culinary life in Southern California.
Outside of Thailand, you’d be hard pressed to find better Thai food than in Southern California, yet no Thai restaurants were awarded a star.
Outside of Mexico, you may find equally stunning Mexican food in an LA taco truck, yet only one Mexican spot earned a star, and it wasn’t in Los Angeles or San Diego. It’s no different with Korean, Sichuan or any of the other celebrated cultures and cuisines which have elevated the LA food scene yet were left empty handed.
These are the places that are raved about from person to person, and take the concept of casual eating to heights any Michelin kitchen would be lucky to achieve. Perhaps, that’s the only reason that the misgivings of the guide are a actually good thing. Fewer “secrets” are out than expected.
In total, 90 Michelin stars were dished out across California, and any restaurant gaining a star deserves nothing but praise and happiness. For the new Southern California element of the guide, it’s great to see Nancy Silverton receive at least the minimal “official” recognition she deserves for Osteria Mozza, after decades at the forefront of LA food.
It’s impossible to know whether holding a star actually excites Nancy Silverton, or Nikki Nakayama of n/naka for that matter, but for them not to have the most commercial form of excellence recognition just felt silly. In that regard, the guide is welcomed and overdue. But back to the gripes, many are left speechless as to how n/naka failed to earn three star status, or Curtis Stone was left with just one for Maude.
Most importantly: the Michelin California Guide failed to commend the truly world class taco truck scene, or the incredible low key Korean, Thai and Chinese eats which thrive from Orange County to Compton. If you give stars to similar establishments in Asia, why change the criterion here?
The Michelin Guide rates “three star” restaurants as being worthy of a trip all by themselves, and taco truck, slash street food culture is the essence of why many foodies may visit Southern California, other than the Runyon hikes of course. People travel to Southern California for the food truck scene alone, and few leave disappointed.
To say Angelenos aren’t foodies is simply sacrilege. They’re just a bunch who are spoiled for choice without feeling the need for white coats or high thread count table cloths. If anything, Angelenos appreciate how simple and good food should be at levels that are rare for the USA, and are more in line with the delectable street food bite cultures of Asia.
Night + Market in Silver Lake is a perfect example of outrageously authentic food in a no frills setting. In fact, the editors of Eater wrote a brilliant op-ed on the subject of this total misunderstanding of LA good food. Ironic, considering it was the director of the guide who famously claimed it was the other way around.
If Hawker Chan in Singapore deserves a star, there’s a long list of Los Angeles establishments on equal footing. David Chang, creator of the iconic Momofuku brand even named a suburban strip mall restaurant as his restaurant of the year. It’s also nowhere to be found.
In a way, outrage today could mean prolonged happiness for LA diners. Their favourite secret taco trucks or East LA Thai spots are safe for now – but there’s always next year.