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米其林餐厅评级缘何风光不再?

Ian Mount 2014年12月20日

一颗米其林星是很多餐馆老板毕生的追求。但它也是一个紧箍咒,迫使大厨们不得不走高端法式料理模式,无法创新。此外,很多米其林星级餐厅都无法实现盈利。有鉴于此,越来越多的大厨主动要求摘掉这个光环。

厨师朱利奥•比奥斯卡还记得那“压死骆驼的最后一根稻草”。2013年4月,他到一家米其林星级餐厅吃生日大餐,那家餐厅侍应用了大量形容词详细解释一道很复杂的菜品所使用的原料(用比奥斯卡的话说是“唱菜名”)。然后那名侍应从口袋里掏出一个香水瓶,完成了这道菜品的最后一道工序——喷点雪莉酒的香气。

比奥斯卡在西班牙巴伦西亚省的小镇丰塔纳尔斯德尔萨福林斯(FontanarsdelsAlforins)拥有一家家族餐厅。就在“香水事件”不久后,比奥斯卡决定摘掉自家餐厅于2009年获得的米其林星。比奥斯卡很快意识到,虽然他不喜欢喷香水的菜,但那并不是促使他摘掉米其林星的根本原因(他说:“那不是主要原因,但那也是个原因。”)不过,他也毫不掩饰自己对米其林评分系统的赞赏,因为正是它让他的餐厅出了名。

比奥斯卡表示,他这样做的原因是为了逃避米其林星带来的“不可承受之重”。米其林评级包含一个“品鉴菜单”和一系列复杂的菜品,而且它会给顾客带来非常特定的预期。米其林星虽然是一项荣誉,但也是个“禁箍咒”,让他无法创新。

他表示:“我发现这种菜品和这种工作方式让我感到不舒服,于是我决定跳出去做些简单的东西。”

比奥斯卡要求米其林摘掉他的星星,同时取消他的“品鉴菜单”。不过由于沟通问题,米其林在2014年的推荐指南里并没有及时删去比奥斯卡的餐厅,所以直到2015年的指南推出,比奥斯卡才算是自由了。

比奥斯卡表示:“去年一整年,我都在向人们解释,我们不再是米其林星级餐厅了,也没有一份‘品鉴菜单’。”

当然,比奥斯卡的决定看起来很奇怪。一颗米其林星是很多餐馆老板毕生的追求,它带来的市场力量是非常大的。西班牙美食评论家朱丽亚•佩雷兹•洛萨诺指出:“毫不夸张地说,米其林星相当于把你放在了美食地图上。”

比奥斯卡并不是唯一一个拒绝米其林评级的人。今年年初,比利时‘t Huis van Lede餐厅的大厨弗雷德里克•杜格也摘掉了他的星星,理由是他想自由地做炸鸡,而不必被人们指手划脚地说“这不是一道米星林星级水平的菜”。

比奥斯卡和杜格的决定,一定程度上折射出在一些快速变革的行业中,一些评级机构所遭受的尴尬。米其林指南在过去就被认为是一个问题,它迫使西餐大厨们不得不走高端法系大菜模式,不过现在问题主要来自食客方面。尽管米其林餐厅已经接受了法国菜近年来的激烈转型(比如你可以看看最近刚获得米其林三星的DiverXo餐厅的“朋克风”官网),但是很多看《米其林指南》的消费者还是期待享受一顿传统大餐。

佩雷兹•洛萨诺表示:“米其林正在失去它的传统特性……但很多顾客仍然有那样的预期。”

来自澳洲的大厨斯凯伊•金杰尔对这一点有切身体会。2011年,也就是她在伦敦的Petersham Nurseries Café西餐厅开业7年后,米其林给她那老旧而别致的小餐厅颁发了一颗米其林星。不过她的餐厅的硬件并不怎么样,房子是间温室,地面是原生态的土地,桌子也不大稳当。

《米其林指南》的读者们开始蜂拥而入。这家餐厅简单的季节性菜肴给人很深的印象,但是硬件却差强人意。

金杰尔对澳大利亚《好周末》(Good Weekend)杂志表示:“人们对一家米其林餐厅是有一定预期的,但是我们的桌子上没有桌布,服务也不是很正式。如果人们习惯了在Marcus Wareing(伦敦伯克利酒店的一家两星餐厅)吃饭,那他们来到这里时就会觉得很失望。”

她还把米其林星称为一个“诅咒”,并表示:“如果我能再开一家餐厅的话,我祈祷我们不要获得一颗星。”

《米其林指南》没有回应记者的采访请求。

金杰尔从餐厅的官网上摘下了这颗星星,不久之后,这家餐厅也歇业了。(她最近又在伦敦开了一家餐厅,这次有桌布,目前尚未获得米其林星。)

即便对那些不觉得被米其林星束缚住的餐厅来说,一颗米其林星也意味着它要不断付出努力和投资。学术研究表明,失去一颗米其林星会导致餐厅的销售额下降最高达50%,而得到米其林星的餐厅则觉得有必要对服务和装修进行投资,为了这样做,他们往往就得提价。

哈佛商学院(Harvard Business School)商业管理教授盖里•匹萨诺表示:“大家普遍认为,要想保住顾客群,就得保住米其林星。如果你失去了这颗星,更糟糕的事都有可能发生。这是个恶性循环。”

米其林星还往往不会带来利润。在发表于《康奈尔酒店与餐饮管理季刊》(Cornell Hotel & Restaurant Administration Quarterly)的《星星背后:简单诊断欧洲的米其林餐厅》一文中,作者们发现,近半数米其林推荐的“样板餐厅”都是不盈利的。

很多米其林餐厅其实都是在赔本赚吆喝,它的名声使大厨能够赚取很高的私人烹饪费,还有些米其林餐厅则做起了低成本的配套食品和低价餐厅。在最近的一次采访中,DiverXo餐厅的大卫•穆诺兹对我表示,2015年将是他的公司成立8年来第一次实现收支平衡,而这仅仅是由于它旗下的街头快餐连锁业务StreetXo的扩张。

朱利诺•比奥斯卡在自家餐厅的隔壁也开了一家低价餐厅,他表示:“高端法系餐厅如果没有其它收入,很少能够达到盈利。我们没做到,我认为也不会有任何人能做到。”

大厨们会继续为了米其林餐厅而努力。不过通过高调退回米其林星,比奥斯卡或许已经找到了最佳的定位。

哈佛大学的匹萨诺表示:“一旦你放弃了它,它就不会被剥夺。就像如果你辞职了,也就不会再被解雇一样。这样做在市场上是有价值的。你可以说:‘我放弃了我的米其林星’。这样顾客会认为你本来有一颗星星,同时你也不必忍受评论者们的吹毛求疵。(财富中文网)

译者:朴成奎

Chef Julio Biosca remembers the last straw clearly. In April 2013, he was out for his birthday dinner at a Michelin-star restaurant and the waiter was doing his adjective-heavy best at enumerating the ingredients of a complicated dish (“singing the dish,” in Biosca’s words). Then the waiter reached into his pocket and pulled out a perfume atomizer to add the final ingredient: aroma of Jerez.

Not long after the perfume incident, Biosca decided to return the Michelin star his family’s restaurant—Casa Julio, in FontanarsdelsAlforins, outside of Valencia, Spain—had received in 2009. He is quick to note that, while he doesn’t like the style of cuisine that uses perfumes, it didn’t lead him to drop his Michelin star (“It wasn’t the major thing, but it was a thing,” he says). And he is eager to express his admiration for the Michelin star system, which put him on the map.

Rather, Biosca says, he wanted to get out from under the weight of the star. He felt that he’d been awarded it for a certain culinary project, which included a tasting menu and complicated dishes, and the award gave customers very specific expectations. The star was an honor but also a straitjacket, one that meant he couldn’t innovate.

“When I saw that I didn’t feel comfortable with this kind of food and this way of working, I decided to step aside to do something simple,” he said.

Biosca asked Michelin to remove his star and, in December 2013, discontinued his tasting menu. Because of a communications snafu, however, Michelin didn’t get the request in time for the 2014 guide, so it was with the November announcement of the 2015 guide that Julio Biosca was free.

“For the last year, I’ve been explaining to people that we were no longer that restaurant and didn’t have a tasting menu,” Biosca said.

Biosca’s decision is odd, of course. A Michelin star is the life goal of many restaurateurs, and the distinction has immense marketing power. “Michelin puts you on the gastronomic map, literally,” says Spanish food critic Julia Pérez Lozano.

But Biosca is not alone in turning his back on the system. Earlier this year, Chef Frederick Dhooge of ‘t Huis van Lede in Belgium turned in his star because he wanted the freedom to cook fried chicken without being told it wasn’t a star-worthy dish.

Biosca and Dhooge’s decisions signal the difficult position of rating agencies in rapidly evolving industries. The Michelin guide was considered a problem in the past, forcing chefs into the French high-end mold, but now the issue is the diners. While Michelin has accepted the radical makeover haute cuisine has undergone in recent years (just visit the punk rock website for recently minted 3-star DiverXo), many consumers who use the guide expect it to prize a traditional style.

“Michelin is losing its traditional identity … but a lot of customers still expect that,” says Pérez Lozano.

Australian chef Skye Gyngell learned that first hand. In 2011, seven years after she opened London’s Petersham Nurseries Café, Michelin awarded a star to the shabby-chic eatery where customers sat at wobbly tables in a dirt-floor greenhouse.

Michelin customers—and their complaints—started to pour in. The simple, seasonal dishes impressed; the setting did not.

“People have certain expectations of a Michelin restaurant, but we don’t have cloths on the tables, our service isn’t very formal. You know, if they’re used to eating at Marcus Wareing [a two-star restaurant in London’s Berkeley hotel], then they feel let down when they come here,” Gyngell told Australia’s Good Weekend magazine.

She also called the star a “curse” and said, “If I ever have another restaurant, I pray we don’t get a star.”

The Michelin guide did not respond to a request for comment.

Gyngell took the star off the restaurant’s website and, not long after, quit. (She recently opened another London restaurant, with tablecloths. No star yet.)

Even for those who don’t feel straitjacketed by the rating, a Michelin star implies a treadmill of work and investment. Academic studies have found that losing a star can cut sales by as much as 50%, and that restaurants awarded Michelin stars feel the need to invest in service and décor and increase prices to do so.

“The thinking is you have to keep the star to keep your client base. And then the worse thing that could happen is you could lose your star. It’s a vicious cycle,” says Gary Pisano, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School.

It’s often an unprofitable one, too. In “Behind the stars: a concise typology of Michelin restaurants in Europe,” published by the Cornell Hotel & Restaurant Administration Quarterly, the authors found that nearly half their sample restaurants were not profitable.

For many Michelin star restaurateurs, the restaurant is a loss leader whose fame allows the chef to charge high speaking or private cooking fees; others start lines of premade food or lower priced restaurants. In a recent interview, David Muñoz of DiverXo told me that 2015 would be the first breakeven year in his company’s eight-year existence, and then only because of the expansion of his street-food chain, StreetXo.

“Few haute cuisine restaurants without any other kind of income are profitable,” says Julio Biosca, who has a lower priced restaurant next to his eatery. “We couldn’t have been, and I don’t think anyone can.”

Chefs will continue to strive for Michelin stars. But in handing back his star and letting everyone know he did, Biosca may have figured out the best position.

“Once you give it up, it can no longer be taken away. It’s like if you quit, you can no longer be fired,” says Harvard’s Pisano. “There’s value to that in the marketplace. You say, ‘I gave up my star,’ and you let the customers assume you would have a star. And then you’re not subject to the vagaries of the reviewers.”

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