Three Takeaways from the Florida Michelin Guide Reveal
Fifteen spots get recognition, but the Michelin Guide says it's just the beginning
It took months of talks, and reportedly a whole lot of money, to finally convince the Michelin Guide to include Florida restaurants. But at a celebration in Orlando on June 9, the guide revealed its inaugural list of 15 restaurants in Florida worthy of inclusion.
The big takeaways: Of the 15 spots included in the awards, 14 of them received one star. Just one picked up two stars, and no Florida restaurants earned the top award, three stars. Eleven of the restaurants awarded stars are in Miami-Dade, and four are in Orlando.
This year, Florida became the fifth region in the United States included in the Michelin Guide. For comparison, the guide awarded stars to 90 restaurants in California, 66 restaurants in New York, 23 restaurants in Illinois and 24 restaurants in Washington, D.C. (that’s one city with nine more starred restaurants than the entire state of Florida).
Inclusion in the Michelin Guide isn’t just another accolade chefs can add to their résumés. With a history dating back more than a century, many see a Michelin Star as the pinnacle recognition for a restaurant. Unlike the less regulated recognitions produced by the James Beard Foundation and Pellegrino, Michelin employs “inspectors” who visit restaurants anonymously and pay for their own meals.
Many of the Florida chefs recognized are well-known names. There were surprises, however, including some pretty huge snubs. But the awards also elevated Florida chefs long deserving of recognition.
You can find the full list of winners here. We’ve also done a bit of analysis of the awards, talked to the folks from Michelin and come up with three key takeaways.
1. Tampa got snubbed hard
As part of a deal struck with Visit Florida, Michelin will produce a guide for three Florida cities: Miami, Orlando and Tampa. But that arrangement didn’t guarantee that Michelin’s inspectors would award any stars.
In the end, Michelin awarded 15 restaurants with stars. Of them, just one, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Miami’s Design District, received two stars. Fourteen spots picked up one star. That means no Florida restaurants, according to Michelin, are worthy of three stars. Since the guide first came to the United States in 2005, just 13 restaurants have earned that top award, including Eleven Madison Park in New York City and Alinea in Chicago.
We are just focusing on the quality of the food to make the restaurant selection. We have no quota by destination.
— Gwendal Poullennec
But the biggest snub in the Michelin announcement is that its inspectors found no restaurants worthy of a star in the entire city of Tampa. That’s a surprise to us, especially after our 2019 exploration of the bustling, and always-improving, food scene there.
Speaking by phone, Michelin’s international director, Gwendal Poullennec, noted that the guide adheres to an international standard that applies equally from Tokyo to Paris to Orlando. “We are just focusing on the quality of the food to make the restaurant selection. We have no quota by destination. So we really pick restaurants on the same criteria,” he said.
While Tampa was snubbed this time and chefs in Orlando and Tampa might be wondering why they got passed over, Poullennec pointed out that when the Michelin Guide expands to a new city, the list there often expands year to year. Giving stars to 15 restaurants in Florida, he said, “is a great beginning, but it is just a beginning.”
2. Diversity didn’t arrive with Michelin
Of the 15 restaurants included in Michelin’s list of Florida restaurants, just two include female chefs, Luciana Giangrandi and Jennifer Bañagale. There are also no Black chefs.
This is an issue that’s not unique to Florida. Michelin has often taken criticism for its lack of diversity, with very few of the 1,500 restaurants recognized by the guide run by chefs of color. It’s a problem the folks at Michelin have long said is a reflection of the industry overall.
Asked about this issue, Poullennec pointed to the fact that the guide included a diversity in cuisine types in Florida, including French, Korean, Mexican and Colombian—something he said is reflective of the diversity in the state.
“When we talk about diversity, we do not set up specific numbers,” he said. “What we look at is the quality of the food.”
That said, it does seem an oversight for the guide to include several Black chefs in its less prestigious Bib Gourmand list instead of awarding them a full star. Red Rooster in Miami’s Overtown neighborhood, owned by chef Marcus Samuelsson and helmed by the talented Chef Tristen Epps, comes to mind as worthy of acclaim.
3. Still, it’s a win for Florida
For a decade now, Florida has been largely ignored by the James Beard Awards. Our cities aren’t places generally held up as meccas of fine dining compared to places like New Orleans, New York or Los Angeles.
But this recognition from Michelin immediately elevates the restaurants that made the list. Undoubtedly, locals and tourists will seek out these places, now more than ever. This list is a compilation of some of the best talents in the restaurant industry, in Florida and perhaps anywhere, and now people everywhere will know it. The vacationing tourist from Indiana and the convention-goer from Wisconsin will fight for reservations or try to sneak these places onto expense sheets.
These 15 starred restaurants have officially been recognized by an authority many see as a true guide of where to eat. Sure, it’s flawed. But it’s also a good start at recognizing the genius of some Florida chefs.