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‘False Spring’ in Istanbul with Michelin

Foreword: Everyone got excited when the Michelin Guide recently included Istanbul in its list. That's why I want to share an article with you which is actually written in Turkish on the blog called Mizanplas (here is the link for TR). Honestly, I haven't read any other article about the Michelin Guide, which is the clearest, most realistic and reflects my opinion one hundred percent. I was a little jealous of the power of the narrative language and the courage of the expressions. Below is the article written by Besim Hatinoglu, the founder of Mizanplas. I hope you read the text and share your comments with us on your @foodandfashionmag and @mizanplas tags. - Sanem. -- >> lets scroll down step by step << -- ‘False Spring’ in Istanbul with Michelin

With its launch on April 21, 2022, Michelin announced that it will include Istanbul as of October 2022 in the guide it has published since the early 1900s. In almost all of the articles dealing with this important event, you will read how Michelin will be beneficial for the country in terms of gastrotourism. You'll find every influencer and 'place' writer repeating the same thing about it, just as retired generals are seen as capable of talking about anything on TV talk shows. So how should we evaluate this development? In the final analysis, is this development good or bad?

First of all, it is necessary to reveal that the Michelin Guide is a system of values like all similar rating systems. Restaurant rating systems set certain criteria for their ratings, and some values stand out in the background of these criteria. For example, one rating system may focus on taste, while another may rate the service, hygiene or creativity. Or, all these values can be included in different degrees in the system. It is possible to determine which values this system focuses on by looking at the places that receive stars in the Michelin Guide. We see that the Guide tends to include restaurants with a creative and technical approach, also called chef cuisine. In short, it is obvious that the Guide gives importance to 'form' (technical presentations) rather than 'essence' (taste). If the plate in front of you is aesthetic; if there is creativity in material combinations; if the textural contrasts surprise you; everything has a story, and the similar features the Guide is looking for. After briefly explaining this important point, it should be added immediately: Yes, it is quite possible for the Michelin Guide to 'guide' you. Just like the ship that wants to cross the Bosphorus is chasing after the pilots, in order for Michelin to be successful in guiding, its references need to be familiar with the aforementioned values.

Now, let's talk about Michelin's decision to include Istanbul in the Guide... As I mentioned at the beginning, it is not necessary to be a astrologer to say that this will be beneficial for gastro-tourism. The guide is one of the reference resources that many food lovers browse, experienced and inexperienced. But this reminds me of an error attributed to some economists. I mean; economists who focus only on the concretely manifested benefits in a matter, with little regard for what would be lost in exchange for those benefits, if they were not tangible enough. It is necessary to take a few steps back and look at what is happening from a wider perspective. . The values that I mentioned above that created the Michelin Guide system give privilege to the restaurant category called 'fine dining'. What this means is this: In a city like Istanbul with a handful of fine dining restaurants, Michelin has two options. It will either give its stars to only a few places and take on guidance that doesn't make much sense in practice, or it will set the bar quite low and reward the places where it wouldn't normally give stars with stars. . At this point, we come face to face with the reason that caused Michelin to lose its old reputation. Michelin, which included only a limited number of countries for many years, was faced with the problem of universal standards when it decided to aggressively increase the number of countries and regions it included in its guide. Serious quality differences began to emerge between the (n) number of Michelin-starred restaurants in country (X) and the (n) number of Michelin-starred restaurants in country (Y).

The most obvious example is the difference in quality between restaurants in France and those in Korea. It is possible to argue that a similar situation will occur in our country. It will come out too, because just like in Korea, the reason why Michelin decided to come to Istanbul is not the increase in the number of fine dining restaurants compared to the past, but the financial support it will receive from local tourism institutions. An industry struggling with increasingly difficult social and economic conditions cannot offer better conditions to its customers or employees. We will continue to ship our best materials abroad for higher fees. We will not be able to prevent the most qualified employees from going to other sectors or abroad. Even if they stay, their conditions will become more difficult as working in starred restaurants is seen as a privilege. While everything is getting worse in terms of the quality of the materials used and the qualified employees, we will be busy with this 'False Spring' that came to the country for a while. Apart from this 'False Spring', another factor that will create longer-term problems will be the acceleration of the modernization process of traditional cuisine. Our restaurants, which want to differentiate the restaurants in Istanbul from the Michelin-starred restaurants in other countries, will focus on the interpretation of local cuisines. Traditional tastes that are destined to lose their charm in the modern kitchen will turn into freaks with these forced efforts. We will see that poor plates off from the hands of naive chefs will alienate competent food lovers from the local cuisine, while it is thought to offer a rare local culinary experience. Those who doubt can examine the restaurants that Michelin has awarded many stars in Spain and the interpretations of the traditional cuisine in these restaurants.

Although this picture is rather pessimistic, I hope it has at least succeeded in presenting an alternative perspective.

Besim Hatinoglu


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