Features 3 minutes 07 July 2022

An Interview with a Michelin Guide Inspector

We delve into the secret world of those whose job it is to decide who gets a MICHELIN Star.

Interview Great Britain & Ireland Michelin Inspector

They are said to have one of the best jobs in the world, but while being a Michelin Inspector certainly has its perks, it’s not all starry-eyed glitz and glamour. There are late nights, long journeys, and weeks spent away from family and friends. But the passion of the Inspectors for what they do far outweighs any challenges thrown at them.

The inspection team were restless over lockdown, watching somewhat helplessly from the side-lines and itching to be back out there supporting the industry — and once they could get back on the road, the landscape had certainly changed.

As we enter 2022, restrictions around socialising and international travel continue to bring challenges; however, the Inspectors are just glad to be back out there and are heartened at the way the industry has pulled together and stepped up to the plate.

We caught up with Emily, who has been a UK inspector for eight years.

What do you love about your job?

The freedom of being out and about and the excitement of discovering new places. It is our responsibility to identify the up-and-coming talent, and watching newer chefs come onto the scene and develop their skills is incredibly rewarding. My job satisfaction is off the scale!

What didn’t you expect when you joined Michelin?

To be travelling to so many different countries. I knew I would be eating in the best restaurants, but I didn’t appreciate the fact that they would be all over the world. Being able to compare restaurants across the globe is crucial for keeping our standards the same internationally. Once things have settled down, we have plans to expand into new countries, so it’s an extremely exciting time to be working for Michelin.

What else excites you about the future?

We were already working towards a more digital future but the lockdowns accelerated the move. Last year, the Great Britain & Ireland Guide  was published online only for the first time and the new iOS and Android apps were also launched.

We also recently started updating the guide live. The distinctions — Stars, Green Stars and Special Awards — will still be presented annually at the MICHELIN Star Revelation event, but newly recommended restaurants will now be added to the listings every month.

Our online community is growing, which allows us to remove some of the mystery — as well as some of the misconceptions — that have historically surrounded the guide. We still have to remain anonymous when dining in restaurants, but we want to give our audience more of an insight into our world and a better understanding of the life of a Michelin Inspector.

Tell us about your fellow inspectors.

They are deeply passionate about what they do and put the same level of care into every visit they make, be it a neighbourhood bistro or a world-renowned restaurant. We live and breathe restaurants, so our meetings are always animated and tremendously detailed. We have a unique connection — almost like a kitchen team!

What’s it like being a woman in a male-dominated industry?

When I first started the job, I would often walk into a restaurant with a male colleague and be addressed as Mrs. — and I didn’t get given the wine list or the bill as often as my male counterparts — but happily that happens much less now.

The hospitality industry in general is still male-dominated, but it’s slowly moving in the right direction. Last year we awarded Three Michelin Stars to two restaurants — both of which are led by female chefs (Clare Smyth and Hélène Darroze). They are great role models for youngsters thinking about entering the industry.

Clare Smyth and Hélène Darroze
Clare Smyth and Hélène Darroze

Where do you stay when you’re travelling?

I have been lucky enough to stay in some of the best hotels in the world — and I never take it for granted. One month I stayed at The LINE Hotel Los Angeles and, a few weeks later, Castel Fragsburg in Italy. I find the variety amazing. Now that Tablet Hotels are part of the Michelin family, there will be many more opportunities to stay in wonderful places.

Can you remember your first trips with Michelin?

Of course! Every trip is unique, from where you go to who you meet. The first time, I went to Ireland. There is a vibrancy in the air in Dublin — it feels so alive — and Irish B&Bs are among the best in the world; their hospitality is second to none. I also went to Scotland during my training. I will never tire of the stunning landscapes it has to offer — and the quality of their ingredients is simply superb.

What are you particularly proud of?

The diversity of the dining scene in the UK and Ireland and how this is reflected in the Guide. We have so many different cuisines represented, across all price levels, from modest neighbourhood bistros to world-renowned restaurants with MICHELIN Stars. Our restaurants are always on our international colleagues’ wish lists!

What three things stand out most during your time at Michelin?

There are so many I could mention! But if I have to pick three I would say:
- Witnessing the transition of rundown British boozers into smart dining pubs after being taken over by some of the country’s best chefs.
- Watching the evolution of the culinary scene in the Nordic Countries — they have some extraordinarily talented chefs there.
- Being a part of so many life-changing decisions when awarding new Stars.

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