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Michelin Release Party is Glamorous But Unexciting

By Anthony Todd in Food on Nov 18, 2010 4:40PM

DaleyMichelin.jpg Last night was the A-list event of the Chicago food world, the Michelin Guide release party at the Chicago Cultural Center. Most of Chicago's culinarians were out, dressed in their finest, and we caught glimpses of just about every Michelin-starred chef. Mayor Daley mixed and mingled, and writers and bloggers from all over the city furiously photographed and scribbled. Despite all this glamour, the real story of the evening seemed to be something of a lack of excitement. As one writer (who shall remain anonymous) put it, "This just doesn't play well in Chicago."

The level of pomp and ceremony was surprisingly low. There was no formal ceremony involving the chefs, only a few short speeches from the higher-ups before the guide was officially released, piles of them floating around on trays carried by graceful waiters. Despite an invitation to step up to the podium, none of the starred chefs came forward. At one point, we saw Rick Bayless start to make his way to the stage, only to realize that he would be alone and retreat back into the crowd. Despite this being an evening "about the chefs," unless you already knew who they were, they would've stayed completely anonymous.

Mayor Daley's remarks praised the city's cuisine, called Michelin "a great corporate citizen" and thanked them for recognizing Chicago's great food. He also took a moment to recognize the chefs who make Chicago such a great food city, praising their civic virtues and their willingness to support charitable causes. In an odd twist, he got in a long plug for high-speed rail to O'Hare, arguing that it would allow people to stay a few extra hours and eat more meals. Jean-Luc Naret of Michelin seemed exhausted, beginning his remarks with "what a week!" before moving on to discuss his favorite part of the process, calling the chefs. He made some vague but bitter remarks about the release of the guide on Yelp, before (somewhat patronizingly, we thought) reminding us that, no matter what our critics might think, Michelin represented a global point of view, and that Chicago was an international gastronomic destination. Weren't we one of those before Michelin came calling? Anyway, now we can wrap up our tuxes and return to our regularly scheduled food.