A Tête-À-Tête With Gwendal Poullennec, International Director of the Michelin Guide

Gwendal Poullennec | Gwendal Poullennec | Michelin Guide Malaysia | Food For Thought

As the Michelin Guide Malaysia celebrates its inaugural year with 4 Michelin Stars awarded, we speak to Gwendal Poullennec, International Director of the MICHELIN Guide to find out more about the future of Michelin in Malaysia and what exactly is the Michelin Selected and what the Green Star is.

Can you tell us about what Michelin’s next plan of expansion to other cities?

At this stage it’s too early to share any new official projects. Our inspectors are always monitoring the evolution of potential culinary destinations. As part of that, their daily work is to explore the world. In 2022, the Michelin Guide has been extending to many new culinary destinations like in the Middle East, recently with Dubai and Abu Dhabi. We have also launched our very first selection in Canada with Toronto and Vancouver. We have also published the very first selection in Istanbul for Turkey. We are really in that dynamic and the reason behind that is because you have more and more good restaurants blossoming almost everywhere. So the world is definitely interesting from a Gourmet point of view. And today, we are also expanding to fill up that space. If we look at the potential and the dynamic, the selection is just the first step. We know that the chefs and their team, they will raise the bar, that there will be new projects, new concepts, so that will trigger the elevation of the global culinary offerings, and that also the local foodies will play a key role. Because the Michelin Guide is not only working for the international travellers, but first and foremost for the local people and the Gourmet because they are becoming more and more demanding. Discerning palates will push the restaurants to raise the bar, to raise their game. And from one year to another, I’m pretty sure that we will be able to monitor the strong evolution.

Gala Dinner | Gwendal Poullennec | Michelin Guide Malaysia | Food For Thought

What is the difference between the Bib Gourmand and the Michelin Select?

At the Michelin Guide, we call the inspectors ‘inspectors’ and not restaurant reviewers because they are exploring. They are always pushing the door, canvasing the cities to ensure we leave no stone unturned. Being listed by the Michelin Guide inspectors means that your restaurant has been identified and tested as one of the best restaurants in the destination, so being listed in the Michelin Guide is already a real recognition and a real accomplishment. The best places for the quality of the food are awarded with the Stars and the restaurant offering the best value for money under a certain price are awarded with the Bib Gourmand.

In relation to the Michelin Bib Gourmand, is there a certain price point for the Malaysian market that you look at to decide if they fall under that?

So here’s the price threshold. And again, we are adapting the price threshold based on the local purchase power and standard of living, which is quite low if we compare to other international destinations. It’s roughly under RM120. But before talking about the price, we are talking about quality. And what is impressive with the Bib Gourmand is that they manage to offer very good food. That means fresh, quality products. And most of the time, I would say, when I’m looking at those restaurants worldwide, they really are the gateway to the most local, genuine, and authentic experiences. Because to be good and affordable, what do you need to do? Simple recipes, traditional recipes, local products and fresh products, and that comes all together at the Bib Gourmand level.

Michelin Guide | Gwendal Poullennec | Michelin Guide Malaysia | Food For Thought

For Michelin Selected restaurants, do they also get a plaque?

Frankly, the most important way to recognise the restaurants is just to publish them on the Michelin Guide website and applications. Because today, most of the audience of the restaurants are digital, and local people and international travellers, when looking for the best places to dine out will go to the Michelin Guide website.

Tell us about the Michelin Guide Inspectors team…

When we talk about the way we work at the Michelin Guide is that the inspectors work is truly a professional work. It’s a full time job that inspectors on average are eating out roughly 300 to 350 times a year. That’s a lot, it means that they are eating out for lunch and dinner almost every single day, then writing a full report. And it’s based on those reports that makes the team decisions. That is why the Michelin Guide inspectors team is truly a global one. That’s the reason why we do not answer questions about figures, about if they are local.

DC Restaurant | Gwendal Poullennec | Michelin Guide Malaysia | Food For Thought

Is the Michelin Guide Inspectors team a fixed one?

Every year it will change because we will change the composition of the team. They are in charge of making this selection. For example, in Japan or in France, we include every year people from Asia, different European countries, from North America just to make the selection. And that’s not only a way to recognise all the different cooking types, but it’s also to ensure the consistency of range. And that’s based on this methodology, based on the fact that all people are traveling the world, that we are open to the world and to the different cooking styles, that we apply the knowledge and that we ensure consistency. As I said, one Star here has the value as a Star in Paris. And that’s also what makes the Micheline Guide unique in this approach.

One Stars | Michelin Guide Malaysia 2022 | Food For Thought

What does it take for a restaurant to get a Green Star and what are some basic tips?

It’s just the beginning and every year the selection will be a new book. About the Green Star, so the Green Star are restaurants who are real front runners when it comes to sustainable gastronomy. It is really a holistic approach on the topic. Restaurants being recognised by the Green Star truly have sustainability at the core of their ethos. They are sustainable in everything they do from sourcing of products, respecting seasonality, reducing food waste, lower energy consumption. So it can be a lot of different factors, a lot of different initiatives. And also what would be important is that at the Michelin Guide, we have a holistic approach to that topic, so we would be able to recognise different types of initiatives because the challenge of the restaurants within a big city is not the same versus the challenges faced by local farm-to-tables. We have this ability to compare and the Green Star is really a global approach with a global methodology. Today we have only 424 restaurants lauded globally with the Green Star, so its just for the frontrunners that are real role models, not only adding the ability to inspire their peers, but also to have an impact on their customers and to have an impact even beyond gastronomy in the way people look at food. And for Michelin, is always all about great food, that means that you’ve are offering quality food, a great food experience and at the same time that you are you’re handling the sustainable challenges.

For Michelin Guide Malaysia related, see Michelin Guide Malaysia.

| PHOTOGRAPHY: MICHELIN GUIDE | WEBSITE: MICHELIN GUIDE |

Nicholas Ng

Nicholas Ng is a restaurant critic and drinks writer and is the editor of independent publication Food For Thought. He has been a freelance journalist for the 15 years and has previously worked as a lawyer and in digital marketing. He currently is the Principal Consultant of A Thought Full Consultancy, a food and beverage marketing consultancy.

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