In 1900, fewer than 3,000 cars travelled the roads of France. It wasn’t good news for brothers Édouard and André Michelin, who owned a tire factory. Their solution was to publish a guidebook that would encourage more drivers to explore the country’s roads.
Their first Michelin Guide listed hotels, restaurants, gas stations and car mechanics around France and sold 35,000 copies. By the 1930s, the guide covered most of Europe and introduced its now-famous one-, two- or three-star rating system. Today, Michelin covers more than 30 countries and its culinary stars are coveted by restaurants.
One of those stars was recently bestowed on Addison, a luxurious French-influenced restaurant in San Diego, Calif. Located on the grounds of the Fairmont Grand Del Mar resort, it is where 44-year-old chef director William Bradley indulges his love of caviar and local ingredients.
In its new guide to 654 restaurants in California, Michelin notes that Addison “is like wrapping yourself in culinary excellence.” We spoke to Bradley about what it is like being the only Michelin-starred establishment in his city.
How did Michelin come to be in San Diego?
Michelin had been in the area for a while, but there were rumours that it would come back [and look at] California as a whole. It’s more of a state guide now rather than a city guide. Chefs take it very seriously.
What are the ratings?
The rating system starts with Bib Gourmand, then Plates, then one, two or three stars, based on the cooking.
Are scores really based on things like having fancy stools for ladies’ purses?
That was always a myth. Stars reflect what’s on the plate.
Were you aware when the Michelin inspectors came in?
No. What makes it so cool is they are the most elusive, nondescript people. You have no idea who they are or how many times they come. They want to make sure the customer has a consistent experience.
Do you know what they ate or what impressed them?
They mention a few things in the write-up in the guide. Hopefully, they were impressed by the overall experience, from service to ambience to wine to cuisine. They obviously enjoyed their meal, as well.
What does this recognition mean for your restaurant?
We’re on the right track. It was quite an honour, and we’re just going to develop our style and our craft. And down the road, we’re going to get more stars. It takes time, though, because they make you labour for greatness. It’s also amazing for the rest of the staff.
And how about for you?
It has always been my biggest inspiration. The chefs I’ve admired have been one-, two-, three-Michelin-starred chefs. It’s still a shock.
What is your advice to other chefs?
Work hard at creating your style. Stick to the seasons. Cook to your strength. Great things will happen.