Seventy-four restaurants in Toronto were recognized by the Michelin Guide last week. Twelve earned one star, while just one achieved two-star status and no one earned a third star, the highest rating in the guide.
When the Michelin Guide announced it was coming to Canada, beginning in Toronto, I pitched it as an editorial topic at our weekly meeting here at The Citizen. Michelin-Starred restaurants are often quite fancy, rather pricey and not overly accessible in terms of some of the food that arrives on the plate. How does that fit with Huron County (with all due respect to great local chefs like Peter Gusso and James Eddington)? The farming.
In an episode of Parts Unknown, Anthony Bourdain spoke with René Redzepi, the chef and owner of Noma, which has been named the best restaurant in the world multiple times. Redzepi said that no culinary school teaches young cooks about the symbiotic relationship they need to have with their producers. On an episode of Chef’s Table highlighting Dan Barber of Blue Hill Farm, Barber said he’d yet to hear anything that flew in the face of the idea that good ingredients make good food and that good farming creates good ingredients.
So, while Huron County may not be home to any Michelin-Starred restaurants right now (again, all due respect to James and Pete), it’s not inconceivable to think that food grown in Huron County could be on the plate at a restaurant with a Michelin Star or on the Canada’s Top 100 list in the near future.
When Jess and I honeymooned in Ireland, we ate at two Michelin-Starred restaurants. Aniar in Galway and Chapter One in Dublin. We also ate at two Michelin-recognized spots, The Pig’s Ear in Dublin and Ubiquitous Chip in Glasgow, Scotland. Places like these are on the guide’s radar - like the 61 other Toronto restaurants, some of which we’ve eaten at as well - but aren’t quite at Michelin Star status. Dining at these restaurants, or any of the other life-highlight places I’ve been over the years - Raymonds in St. John’s, Liverpool House and Joe Beef in Montreal and Langdon Hall in Cambridge to name a few - you hear a lot about what you’re about to eat and drink. The cooks will tell you about how your food has been prepared, but mostly, I’ve found, they tell you about where your food is from. The beef comes from this farm and the vegetables come from that farm and the sauce is made from this and that from this organic garden. As someone who has learned more about agriculture every year that I’ve been working for The Citizen, I found these things to be fascinating.
While plenty in the food industry have their problems with the Michelin Guide for a variety of reasons, it’s hard to argue that it isn’t a rising tide that could raise all boats. Those 13 first restaurants, surely with more to come as the Michelin Guide takes a closer look at cities like Vancouver, Montreal and the rest of the country, could raise the stakes for all other restaurants in Canada, inspiring everyone to try a little harder at the stove. Furthermore, a Michelin Star can work wonders for tourism, so, the more people who come to Canada to learn about its food, the better.
This has to be good news for the farmers of Huron, the most agriculturally-productive county in the province. Whether it’s large-scale producers or smaller, specialty farms, our food surely would put a smile on the face of any Ontario chef. So, while it’s the aforementioned chefs who may be striding across the stage to accept their Michelin Stars, perhaps the farmers of Huron County will be taking pride in such wins soon enough.