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Covid-19 is killing restaurants. So why is Michelin still obsessing about star ratings?

October 14, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

A man holds a glass of wine during the presentation of Germany's Michelin Guide 2017 in Berlin on December 1, 2016. (Photo by TOBIAS SCHWARZ / AFP) (Photo by TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP via Getty Images)

Even though many fine dining venues are facing closure because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Michelin says it has no plans to stop publishing its guides and issuing stars.

(CNN) — Walk into almost any fine dining kitchen and the chances are its chefs would say there's only one holy grail of achievement in their profession: to be awarded a Michelin star.

For some in the industry, that's a step too far for Michelin that will do little to enhance the dining guide in an age when many restaurant workers are becoming more vocal about what they say are the damaging pressures of trying to live up to such rigorous standards.

So, given the current parlous state of the restaurant business, why is Michelin still visiting restaurants, inspecting and awarding its stars?

The selections they make for next year's guide, he says, will "put a spotlight on the industry and restaurants which in some parts of the world are still facing the effects of the crisis. "

Many Michelin restaurants -- especially those with two or three stars -- derive income from international visitors now absent due to global travel restrictions.

He says the barometer currently registers that, at time of writing, 85% of Michelin-starred restaurants were open.

Michelin also points out its special projects such as "Le Bon Menu" in France, which uses social media to support chefs helping out those in need and highlight restaurants that have pivoted to takeaway, delivery and other business models.

Australian Shane Osborn, from Hong Kong's one Michelin-starred Arcane, is one of the most respected chefs in the city, someone with a history of Michelin-garlanded success at restaurants including London's Pied à Terre.

"It's a tricky one but I don't really think it's a time for Michelin to be judging restaurants when businesses are under extreme pressure to stay afloat," he says.

As to whether Michelin should be awarding stars this year, Ben-Moshe believes the guide is right to press ahead, insisting it can be a force for good and that its food critics are professional enough to take into account the changes restaurants are making to cope with the current crisis.

Steve Zagor, an adjunct professor at Columbia Business School who focuses on restaurants and food businesses, says that while the Michelin guide continues to have relevance under normal circumstances, it may struggle right now.

Vicky Lau, chef at Tate Dining Room in Hong Kong, a restaurant that's held one star since 2012 thanks to her elegant cuisine melding Chinese and French influences and ingredients, says Michelin offers a beacon of certainty in uncertain times.

"I think Michelin has an important role, now more than ever, to help restaurants and sustain tourism -- and then boost them when everything is back to normal," she says.

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