CHICAGO (AP) – The Michelin Guide announced Tuesday that two Chicago restaurants, chef Grant Achatz’s ultramodern Alinea and chef Laurent Gras’ seafood-centered L2O, earned rare and coveted three-star ratings in the dining guide’s first-ever edition for the Midwestern city.
The esteemed guide’s publication in Chicago provides an official stamp of approval on the city as part of the global culinary elite. Tourism and culinary experts in Chicago, like celebrity chef Rick Bayless, say the recognition will attract more visitors and boost the reputation of the city’s restaurants and eateries.
“Just because Michelin thought there were enough great restaurants in Chicago to do a guide,” said Bayless, whose upscale Mexican restaurant Topolobampo earned a one-star rating from Michelin. “Because it says it is a culinary destination to that international audience.”
Michelin’s Chicago guide includes 342 restaurants and 39 hotels. It debuts Thursday and makes Chicago just the third U.S. city apart from New York and San Francisco to have an annual Michelin Guide. Just like its other 25 editions, the guide will rate restaurants on comfort, food, prices and other factors. Michelin said its team of anonymous inspectors conducted inspections and research in Chicago for two years.
The guide was first published in France in 1900 and editions now cover 23 countries and more than 45,000 establishments.
Nick Kokonas, co-owner of Alinea along with Achatz, said he thinks earning Michelin’s top honor means diners will have “even higher expectations.” Achatz’s ultramodern cooking style has come to define the molecular gastronomy movement. The James Beard Foundation honored Achatz with its award as the nation’s top chef in 2008.
Michelin defines a three-star rating, like Alinea’s, as “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.” Michelin describes the rating as “a global emblem of exception dining.” Worldwide 93 restaurants have three stars.
“People outside Chicago will look to it,” Kokonas said. “Especially for a European audience, it establishes Chicago as a culinary center.”
Chicago’s list of starred restaurants include at least three where President Barack Obama has dined in his hometown – Topolobampo, graham elliot and Spiaggia. Three Chicago restaurants received two-star ratings, including Avenues, Charlie Trotter’s and Ria. Eighteen restaurants received one-star ratings.
Michelin Guide’s presence in Chicago and its prestigious reputation gives Chicago the opportunity to call attention to its eclectic chefs and diverse cuisines, said Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau executive vice president Mark Theis.
“This just further underscores the reputation Chicago has had with our culinary complexion,” Theis said. “Seeing the array of restaurants that were noted just further puts an exclamation mark behind this.”
Chicago restaurateur Rich Melman, chairman and founder of Lettuce Entertain Your Enterprises, said his focus remains on improving his eateries. Two of his company’s restaurants, Tru and Everest, each received one star and L2O received Chicago’s other top three-star rating.
“Our goal is to take all three restaurants and make them better,” Melman said.