How many people spring out of bed to go to work, where work entails making a restaurant reservation under an alias every day? As an Inspector for the MICHELIN Guide, this is what they do for a living. Their job is to visit restaurants all over the world to anonymously wine and dine, all on the company dime.
This may sound like a dream job, just like dreaming to be a secret agent because it sounds très cool. But with great power comes great responsibility, so as MICHELIN Guide Inspectors, their identities remain a secret – and we’d like to keep it that way so that they will be treated as a regular customer.
We sat down with a MICHELIN Guide Inspector in Thailand to uncover bits and bobs behind one of the most mysterious jobs you wish to know about.
Life before MICHELIN Inspector
Q: What did you do before becoming an Inspector?
A: I worked as a professional chef in Thailand and overseas and have been in the food business for over 10 years.
Q: Could you share how you got this job?
A: I applied through the Michelin website and was contacted for multiple interviews, including a tasting test to ensure that I was suitable for the job.
Working as an Inspector
Q: What qualifications are required for this position?
A: Start with a fundamental knowledge of food and beverage, cooking, and cultural differences in each cuisine. You also need to be experienced in related fields, be attentive to details, and be fair. Not to mention be open-minded to learning new things.
Q: How often do you eat “professionally”?
A: At least 9-10 meals or more a week.
Q: Do you have a day off or a weekend? Or do you work 9 to 5?
A: Our working hours differ depending on the meals. Some days we start early for breakfast, and others we finish dinner at almost midnight.
Q: How do you keep fit and healthy?
A: You have to exercise and take care of yourself even more as you tend to eat more than regular people.
Q: Do you get to dine at home or grab a meal with friends or family?
A: Occasionally, once we have a day off or during the weekend.
Q: How do you keep your confidentiality from those close to you?
A: Avoid giving specific answers.
Q: What are the pros and cons of being an Inspector?
A: The pros are not only getting to expand my culinary horizon by experiencing different cuisines and learning about cultural differences from each country, but also learning something new every day. The cons are trying to remain fit and always having to be ready to go to work.
The MICHELIN Inspection process
Q: How do you judge food that’s not your native cuisine?
A: We use 5 criteria along with the knowledge and professional experiences of an Inspector.
Q: Do you consider solely what’s on the plate or are there any other factors?
A: We simply look at the dish’s main components as well as the 5 criteria: Quality of products, mastery of flavour and cooking techniques, the chef’s personality represented in the dining experience, harmony of the flavours, and, lastly, consistency between inspectors’ visits.
Q: How often do you revisit the restaurant?
A: Multiple Inspectors take turns revisiting a restaurant to ensure it is a team selection. Some places are revisited over three times.
Q: How do you remain fair between what’s been trained and personal preferences?
A: Purely by sticking to the 5 criteria.
Q: How do you select what to order between signature menus or dishes that you are curious to try?
A: We usually try both for a variety of food and cooking skills.
Q: How do you select a restaurant to visit?
A: We have a standard measurement in selecting a restaurant from various sources, including from other Inspectors.
Q: How many people decide which establishment gets which distinction? Is it a democratic team effort or does someone have the last word?
A: We work as a team and conduct regular meetings to help make a decision.
Q: How do you manage to visit a restaurant during COVID-19?
A: We take precautions and measures more seriously than before by wearing a mask and washing our hands frequently. We also consider eateries that follow the Ministry of Public Health standards even more as well.
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