etoile Restaurant receives third consecutive Michelin star
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In what is fast becoming an annual tradition, etoile Restaurant—with the release of the 2012 San Francisco Bay Area and Wine Country Michelin Guide—has received a Michelin one-star rating for the third year running. This also marks the sixth time in as many years the restaurant at Domaine Chandon has received a recommendation from the prestigious publication, and further cements Chef Perry Hoffman’s reputation as one of the culinary world’s brightest-shining stars.
“It’s a fabulous recognition of all the hard work Perry and the entire restaurant do on a daily basis,” says Domaine Chandon Estate Director Matt Wood. “Of course,” he adds, “hard work alone is not enough to attain a coveted Michelin star. It needs to be harnessed with creativity, leadership and a sensitivity for superior food and service.”
All of this before Hoffman has even celebrated his 30th birthday. Shortly after the happy news broke, the chef toweled off his hands, stepped out of his ever-busy kitchen, and sat down with us for a precious few moments to discuss what the recognition meant for him and his team.
“We’re all very excited…and relieved.”
Every member of Perry’s kitchen staff, including him, labors all year to create the best possible experience for every diner who passes through their doors. The constantly evolving menu, laser focus on fresh and locally-sourced ingredients, never-ending attempt to delight palates in unexpected ways—it adds up to a labor of love that requires constant diligence.
It’s a good thing, too, since they only get one chance to impress Michelin food critics, who arrive anonymously and without fanfare. “We stress about it, but there’s nothing we can do,” admits Hoffman. “We serve 40,000 guests every year, and just one of those is the person reviewing us, and we have no clue who it is.”
700 moving pieces, one Michelin star
Hoffman’s most admirable skill—seamlessly blending whatever’s in season right now into a cohesive menu, day in and day out—also creates his biggest challenge. While many restaurants have a signature dish, etoile Restaurant strives for something a bit more esoteric. The menu evolves almost daily, the ingredients are wide-ranging and unexpected, and yet it all has to somehow just work.
What Perry and his team set out to do is no small feat. Every dish has to match up to the next. It has to make sense amongst the established dishes and wines. His team has to be able to do it logistically and profitably. There needs to be a perceived value worthy of a Michelin star, and not just with one dish, but all 60 dishes across all four menus. “It can be a puzzle to put it all together, and we have over 700 ingredients and pieces in the kitchen that have to work together to make breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Hoffman explains. “To have someone [from the Michelin Guide] confirm for the last three years that, ‘Yes, you guys are doing a great job’ is just nice.”
History of the Michelin Guide
The Michelin Guide, which originated in France and has been in publication for over a century, is widely recognized as the leading voice in denoting the world’s finest dining establishments.
The guide uses star ratings to identify top hotels and restaurants. For restaurants, stars are awarded for the finest cooking, regardless of cuisine style, based on five criteria—quality of the products, mastery of flavor and cooking, “personality” of the cuisine, value for money and consistency between visits.