Kerstin Kühn: California welcomes two new three-Michelin-star restaurants

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 31st October 2014
In LA-based food writer and former restaurant editor of Caterer and Hotelkeeper, Kerstin Kühn's latest piece, she looks in more detail at the latest Michelin Guide for Northern California and also the continued snub of Los Angeles. Michelin last week announced its new star selections for Northern California and in an unprecedented move elevated two restaurants to its coveted three-star-status. Benu_1000-year-old_quail_egg Benu and Saison in San Francisco have risen from two to three stars in the 2015 guide to San Francisco Bay Area & Wine Country, making them the only restaurants in the city to achieve Michelin’s top accolade. They join Thomas Keller’s world-famous French Laundry and the Restaurant at Meadowood, both in Napa Valley, in California’s three-star echelons. Benu, which opened in 2010, is run by chef Corey Lee, a Keller alumnus, who was praised by Michelin for his “incredibly precise culinary technique”. His cooking combines classic French techniques with American and Asian, particularly Korean, flavours. Stand out dishes include his 1000-year-old quail’s egg (pictured) with potage and ginger, while his tasting menus showcase ingredients such as eel, sea cucumber, sweet shrimps and mock shark fin.  Fellow new three-star Saison’s success story has seen the restaurant grow from a weekly pop-up at the back of a café in the Mission District to one of the USA’s most celebrated restaurants, which was named the One to Watch on this year’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Chef Joshua Skenes offers thrilling tasting menus of exquisite and meticulously sourced ingredients with a nod to both French and Japanese cuisines and a “mastery of the northern California culinary philosophy”. Suzette_GreshamMeanwhile Italian restaurant Acquerello was the only new addition to the two-star list, making its chef, Suzette Gresham (pictured), San Francisco’s second female chef with two stars after Dominique Crenn at Atelier Crenn. Michelin commended Gresham’s cooking for its “refined and elegant dishes of superb Italian cuisine with a unique contemporary touch”. There were two new entrants in the one-star category: Kusakabe and Maruya, which are San Francisco's first and only Michelin-starred starred sushi restaurants.  Interestingly chef David Kinch retained his two Michelin stars at Manresa, despite being forced to close his restaurant after a devastating fire in July. Manresa is set to reopen towards the end of the year. Chez Panisse, Alice Waters’ famous restaurant in Berkeley has still not regained the star it lost in the 2011 Michelin guide.  Northern California now has four three-Michelin-starred restaurants – the same as the UK – as well as six two-star and 30 one-star establishments. The 2015 San Francisco Bay Area & Wine Country guide lists a total of 474 restaurants featuring 46 different cuisines.  Commenting on the results, Michael Ellis, international director of the Michelin Guides, said: “With two Curtis_Stonenew three-star restaurants recognised, this 2015 edition reflects Northern California’s remarkable gastronomic energy. The San Francisco Bay area is among the most exciting culinary scenes in the world. Californian chefs are mixing their exacting cooking techniques with superb local ingredients and culinary influences from all parts of the globe. The result is a rich, dynamic and unique dining scene.”  NO STARS IN LOS ANGELES  Los Angeles, meanwhile, remains off Michelin’s radar after it famously axed its guide after just two years in 2009, with former director Jean-Luc Naret claiming that there was no real appreciation of food in the city.  It’s sad to see that Michelin’s lack of recognition of LA’s thriving food scene continues despite many of its chefs and restaurants – including Nancy Silverton, Alma, and Bestia – having won national plaudits. A number of LA chefs have expressed dismay at Michelin’s absence, including Josiah Citrin, whose restaurant Mélisse in Santa Monica, held two stars in the LA guide. He said: “I wish Michelin would come back; I don’t understand why they left. We had more one- and two-star restaurants than Chicago. Instead of just doing the Bay Area, they should do a California guide – it would make sense.”  Curtis Stone (pictured), chef proprietor of Maude in Beverly Hills, added that it’s “a real shame” that the guide is no longer in LA. “Michelin is brilliant in its consistency, which is why they have the credibility that a lot of the other guides lack,” he said.  “A lot of young chefs spend their lives revolving around that guide. For me working at the Oak Room when it had three stars was the pinnacle of my life at the time. Maybe we chefs get too caught up in it so perhaps it’s a good thing not to have the pressure of having Michelin here. But I’d really love it if they came back.” Here’s the full list of starred restaurants in San Francisco Bay Area & Wine County for 2015:  TMichelin_SF_coverHREE STARS:  Benu (new) The French Laundry The Restaurant at Meadowood Saison (new) TWO STARS:  Acquerello (new) Atelier Crenn Baumé Coi Manresa Quince ONE STAR: All Spice, Ame, Auberge du Soleil, Aziza, Bouchon, Boulevard, Campton Place, Chez TJ, Commis, Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant, Gary Danko, Keiko à Nob Hill, Kusakabe (new), La Folie, La Toque, Luce, Madera, Madrona Manor, Maruya (new), Michael Mina, Plumed Horse, Solbar, Sons & Daughters, SPQR, Spruce, State Bird Provisions, Terra, Terrapin Creek, The Village Pub, Wakuriya. Kerstin Kühn is a freelance food and travel writer, specialising in restaurant and chef stories. The Kerstin_Kuhnformer restaurant editor of Caterer and Hotelkeeper, she relocated from London to Los Angeles last summer, where she lives with her husband and two cats. With a vast network of chefs from around the world, Kerstin has profiled the likes of Michel Roux, Heston Blumenthal, Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, the Roca brothers and Massimo Bottura. She has been a contributor to publications including FOUR Magazine, the Evening Standard Food and Travel MagazineM&C ReportDesign WeekFrame Magazine and City and Canary Wharf Magazines and also writes her own blog, La Goulue. You can follow Kerstin on Twitter @LaGoulue _

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 31st October 2014

Kerstin Kühn: California welcomes two new three-Michelin-star restaurants