Why All Michelin Restaurants Won't Have A Menu Full Of Luxury Ingredients

For a restaurant to land a Michelin star, set criteria must be recorded by anonymous Michelin inspectors. From the flavor of dishes to the value of the dining experience, awarded restaurants must demonstrate consistent performance. However, chefs don't need to use fancy ingredients to raise inspectors' eyebrows, as Michelin Guides' International Director Michael Ellis explained to a panel: "Making the simple sublime will get our attention." Take El Califa de León, for example, the Michelin-recognized taqueria dishing out corn tortillas and meat to hungry guests in Mexico. "The secret is the simplicity of our taco. It has only a tortilla, red or green sauce, and that's it. That, and the quality of the meat," chef Arturo Rivera Martínez told the Associated Press

When considering restaurants that have garnered Michelin acclaim, it is clear that the emphasis on fresh, quality ingredients is an industry standard — not the ability to sprinkle beluga caviar and expensive saffron onto plates. Chef George Papazacharias of Delta Restaurant, a two-Michelin-starred venue in Athens, Greece, reinforces the sentiment. He told our team, "Ultimately, the magic of a Michelin-starred menu lies not in the extravagance of its ingredients but in the mastery of its execution." Papazacharias explains that his restaurant collaborates with small, local producers to design menus that are sustainably sourced. He said, "This philosophy demonstrates that extraordinary dining experiences can be crafted from the simplest beginnings, showcasing that excellence in cuisine is achievable through skill and dedication rather than opulence." 

Channeling simplicity into excellence

While dishes with edible gold and Kobe beef may land on social media feeds, ostentatious displays are not necessary for a memorable meal. "If you use too many luxury ingredients, you are just featuring luxury," Chef Alvin Leung of Hong Kong's Michelin-starred Bo Innovation echoes. Chef Tom Kitchin of Edinburgh's Michelin-starred restaurant The Kitchin spoke to us about the importance of fresh, seasonal produce: "For me, taking the freshest, quality produce, and pairing nature's ingredients together which are aligned in the season, means the dishes we present are thoughtfully executed and presented to showcase the produce's natural flavor and beauty." Kitchin and his team use wild mushrooms and garlic, hogweed, seaweeds, sea herbs, dandelion, and wild blackcurrant flowers plucked from the surrounding area to build flavorful dishes. "When we opened The Kitchin, we set out to cook with the seasons and source from the land and sea around us," the chef explained. The focus has paid off, as the restaurant has maintained its Michelin-winning status for years. 

Similarly, Chef Grégoire Berger of Dubai's Michelin-starred Ossiano focuses on quality, not just the showmanship of a Michelin-starred dining experience. He told us, "At Ossiano, our dedication to using simple, fresh, and natural ingredients is the cornerstone of our menu. We meticulously select each ingredient for its exceptional quality, allowing its natural flavors to take center stage." This culinary compass is what results in lasting impressions for visiting diners and Michelin inspectors alike.