Following the news that the Michelin Guide will finally be coming to Dubai, we sat down with Gwendal Poullennec, International Director of the Michelin Guides to discuss the launch…

We already know that the Michelin Guide Dubai will be released in June 2022, and it was also announced in the official press conference that anonymous inspectors have been secretly monitoring the city for the past five years, tracking restaurants on quality and consistently in order to make informed decisions.

In-house inspectors are required to keep their identity hidden, so as not to encourage special treatment other than what a regular guests would receive. Each inspector will never visit a restaurant more than once, but several inspectors are required to visit a restaurant before the collective makes a decision on whether it should be awarded a star. Michelin Guide’s International Director, Gwendal Poullennec revealed that the inspectors dine out around 300 times per year.

In Dubai we have more than 200 nationalities, and the culinary scene reflects this, so Poullennec confirmed that the selection of cuisines will be diverse, and that inspectors must be open minded.

To learn more about the process, and how the guide will be launching in Dubai, we sat down with Gwendal Poullennec.

We hear a lot about ‘Michelin starred chefs’, how do you feel about this terminology?

I think it’s a core topic so thank you for asking. The stars are not given to chefs, but they are really putting the spotlight on the talent of a team in a restaurant. So basically, we are advising restaurant addresses for the gourmet to come to. When people talk about starred chefs, they are referring to chefs that are operating in star restaurants elsewhere but a chef having a star somewhere does not mean that he will automatically get a star in a different place. What we will assess is the quality of the food that we will have in the restaurants that operate in Dubai. What is important in Michelin is to put a spotlight on the doers – the chefs are operating the restaurants, and are sometimes the spokesperson, and some of them are the one driving the creativity and inspiration, they are managing the teams, so obviously some chefs have many star level restaurants, it’s just a way to say it; but what is important to say to the industry is that you will get the stars on the quality of the experience and the meals that the inspectors will get as regular customers in the field. You can take nothing for granted and the chefs, frankly, they know that.

You’ll also bring the Bib Gourmand, how does that differentiate from Michelin Stars in terms of criteria?

With Dubai included, the Michelin Guide will be covering 36 culinary destinations; all-in-all today we are listing more than 15,000 restaurants, with about 3,200 stars. Being in the guide is already an achievement, being awarded a star is really the best of the best – the best restaurants according to the quality of the food, we also have the green star for the sustainable commitments, the role models in terms of sustainable gastronomy. The Bib Gourmand is about value for money, it’s about the quality of the food experience but within a price range, to put a spotlight on the value for money, and we will have Bib Gourmand in Dubai as well, with a threshold that will be communicated in June.

If you have a star, will you always have it?

You have to earn the stars every year. The Michelin Guide has to be constantly up to date. Every year we need to have a star-level experience so that you can keep your star. Nothing should be taken for granted; it’s not your reputation, it’s not what you achieved the year before. We are working for the gourmet, we are working for the food-lovers and we need to earn their trust, so we have to be reliable in ratings so that means that we have to be up to date.

Do you see the guide in Dubai getting bigger each year?

Over the past years, we’ve been able to witness not only the rise in restaurants but what is important for us is the rise in the food quality because there is a real dynamic here. Hopefully we will be part of it and we can expect more restaurants in the years to come as well as increasing the level of quality in the top restaurants in the city.