Can I be a celebrity chef?

How does a chef get to the star?

Comes over every fall many cooks the great tremor. Then the new restaurant guides come onto the market, and in the days and weeks before there was a lot of gossip, gossip and wild speculation in the scene. Who does it catch this time? Who can be happy, who has to be angry? The stars that the French hotel and restaurant guide "Michelin" has awarded in Germany since 1966 are still the greatest honor for a chef. You can't buy or subscribe to the stars. They come, and if you are lucky and continue to give your best, with some - like the French Paul Bocuse or Paul Haeberlin - they stay for over 40 years and longer. And if you are weak and unlucky, they go again. Getting them is often easier than some good cooks think, and more difficult than many bad cooks realize. But how does a chef get a star? And is it always a blessing?

Only nine German restaurants have three stars, 15 two and 184 restaurants have one star in the current “Michelin” edition. That's not a lot - with around 180,000 restaurants and bars in Germany. Haute cuisine takes place in the per mille range. But in spite of this, or perhaps because of it, many stare spellbound at those who made it. Vincent Moissonnier, patron of the new two-star restaurant “Le Moissonnier” in Cologne, is one of the honored, and he is still very confused: “We're just a simple bistro. Hopefully there won't be people who expect it to be like a luxury restaurant here. ”Because Moissonnier has neither tablecloths nor fine crockery.

For decades, it took Christofle silver, Baccarat or Riedel glasses to get three stars. And foie gras, lobster and turbot had to be on the menu. Actually, the three stars only apply to the kitchen. But among cooks and innkeepers it was an unwritten law that whoever wanted to get the highest grade had to look after French noble ingredients as well as fine interiors. “The 'Michelin' expected that,” says Helmut Thieltges from the three-star restaurant “Serrana” in the Eifel, at least that's how he was always told.

It's different today. Today, chefs get three stars who cook Japanese or Neo-American, who have mastered all the tricks of molecular cuisine - and whose restaurants are many things, but not luxurious. When Pascal Barbot received the third star from the Parisian “L‘Astrance” in 2007, many were surprised, because his restaurant was elegant, but not a posh gourmet temple. And in Germany, too, the second star for Moissonnier's bistro and the comparatively simply furnished “Essigbrätlein” in Nuremberg shows that the Paris Michelin headquarters under director Jean-Luc Naret has two new tendencies: On the one hand, they want to move away from the obvious promotion of French dominated high cuisine and towards more international kitchens. And on the other hand, restaurants are now also included in the upper league that do not correspond to the image of the highly elegant luxury restaurant.

The best example of this is the “Amador” in Langen near Frankfurt. Chef Juan Amador has had the third star since November, and his restaurant may not be a simple dining room, but it is neither elegant nor luxurious. Amador's cuisine is state-of-the-art - clearly influenced by Spanish avant-gardists and by no means classically French.

But what is the case now? What is a star for? The German "Michelin" editorial team is based in Landau, Juliane Caspar is the boss. It lists exactly which criteria a restaurant has to meet in order to receive a star: first of all, the quality of the product and its freshness. “It makes a difference whether a beef fillet comes from factory farming or from Hohenlohe beef or Wagyu,” she says.

In addition, there is the professional preparation, "that means exact adherence to the cooking points". As a third criterion, she mentions “the taste”. But isn't that very subjective? “Sure, but you could simplify it like this: A strawberry has to taste like strawberry and not like water,” she says. Also important: creativity and a personal touch. "If a chef does not cook creatively but in a very classic way, it is the personal touch that counts: What sets his kitchen apart from others, what makes it special or better?" Says Caspar.

And finally, consistency is also important: Are the starter, main course and dessert all on the same level and does it taste good in the restaurant not only once in the evening, but also three times at noon on different days? “If someone meets these requirements, they receive a star. Period. ”If he also cooks much better than others with one star, there are two, and if at some point he is as good as other colleagues with three stars, he will get them. Then it always has to be first class, give new impulses, set standards and not just repeat the familiar. The fact that there are now simpler restaurants with two of the three stars is not due to a changed assessment by the “Michelin”, but rather to the fact that there are now restaurants with simple furnishings in which excellent or even first-class cuisine is served, says the "Michelin" editor-in-chief. "And that obviously a lot more guests than before are willing to dine very well for a lot of money, even in less elegant restaurants."

It is precisely for these gourmets that a growing number of restaurateurs who do not want a star (or no longer) cooks. A star can bring more guests and more money - but it doesn't have to. Houses that get a star are often even in danger. The Ketterers in the Black Forest had to find out about this a few years ago. Your “Engel” in Vöhrenbach, which has been awarded one star since 1993, was well attended, “but gradually the regulars stayed away because they thought: This is too good for us. And in the local press there was always something about 'gourmet temple' ", says Reinhold Ketterer," and we're a country inn. "Although he was very happy about the star at the time, he got tired of it over time:" Some people compared us We never wanted to be with a noble restaurant, ”says Ketterer, who cooks fresh from the market,“ to make the best of the simple, ”as he says, and prepares offal like veal's head and kidneys - and never fiddled with lobster, foie gras and truffles. With a heavy heart he asked the then "Michelin" boss Alfred Bercher whether he could not return his star. “He said: No, you can't.” In 2004, however, the “Michelin” awarded him the “Bib Gourmand”, an award for good, inexpensive regional cuisine. And since then, many guests have been coming back, "It's going very well," says Ketterer - with cheaper meals.

Walter Stemberg, patron of the restaurant of the same name in Velbert, relies on another recipe for success: one stove, two kitchens. If you want a Wiener Schnitzel, if you prefer lobster, you can get it, too, and both of them are of very good quality. Stemberg ensures a very good occupancy rate at noon and in the evening five days a week. He doesn't have a star at all, but the “Bib Gourmand”. The parking lot in front of Stemberg's restaurant is mostly filled with noble cars, and the quality of the kitchen and the busy nature of the TV chef do their part. If he only celebrated fine gourmet cuisine here, which he and son Sascha could do, it would probably not be so crowded. Maybe it's even better for him without a star.