How Michelin’s Bib Gourmand award turned around a struggling restaurant | Catch My Job


“I’ve been to some Michelin-starred restaurants around the world before, and to be honest, I always go looking for the Bib Gourmands anyway”

Last month, Michelin revealed the results of its long-awaited inaugural survey of Toronto’s dining scene, making the city the first Michelin Guide destination in Canada. A total of 74 restaurants were honoured, including 17 recipients of the Bib Gourmand award. Since 1997, the Bib Gourmand has recognized “good quality, good value restaurants” that serve two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for less than $60.

For three Bib Gourmand recipients – the Ace, Fat Pasha and Thai Favorites – the award has brought an immediate surge in business as curious customers stream in to sample Michelin-worthy fare for themselves. We asked them how it’s going:

The Ace

Rafael Badell, owner and chef

I was at the Michelin ceremony, but I had no idea we were going to win. I expected to see 1,000 people attending, and when I got there and saw a few hundred people, I thought, This is strange. Then they announced we were a winner, and it was crazy. I couldn’t believe it.

It felt like all the hard work we had done was finally making sense. I’ve had the business for almost two years and I’ve been cooking for 12, and I love it more than anything. But at the same time, it’s a tough industry. It’s hard to compete with big restaurants. I’d say it’s a challenge to make money in an honest way: pay fairly, buy good products. That is not easy. The pandemic amplified that because sales were way down. At one point, you really start asking yourself, “How long can you do this?”

If the pandemic had lasted longer, we would not have succeeded. That takes into account the fact that we also get help from the government, with rent and part of the payroll being subsidized. Even then, I was going to run out of money.

We went from 12 people in the restaurant to just three people. So you can imagine, after doing this for two years, after constantly firing people, to win the Bib Gourmand was amazing.

We have been getting a significantly higher number of reservations — somewhere between 25 and 30 per cent more. Many of those customers found out about us through the awards. I think we’re definitely seeing more of a mixed crowd—more younger people than we would normally see. Often they raise it, and they congratulate us.

After the pandemic, I would say that our goals are definitely less than winning an award. We mostly wanted to stay in business and give everyone enough hours to make a living. We were doing what we love.

Thai favourites

Monte Wan, co-owner

We were invited to attend the opening event. When they announced the Bib Gourmand winners, we were called to the stage, but my partner, Jon Poon, and I stepped aside and sent our team up to receive their award. I’m really so happy for them. Being recognized is not that important to me. But my team, my chef and my front of house manager were so happy about it that I really understood what their joy was.

Thai food was originally low-end fast food. When I opened my other restaurant, Khao San Road, I brought it to a different level and got people to understand it better. I sourced better ingredients and delivered different meals. Thai Favorites came next to introduce people to dishes they didn’t necessarily know about.

Immediately after the Bib Gourmand, there was definitely an increase in doubts. It has been harder to get one. People now have to book a few weeks in advance, rather than a week as before.

I know my chef Ronnie Xu is extremely happy about it. But the next thought on his mind was, Let’s bring it to the one star level. So there’s always a thought — climb it up and improve and do better.

Fat Pasha

Anthony Rose, owner and chef

We’ve been understaffed and busy lately, so when Michelin invited me to the ceremony, I thought they invited me because I’m a chef and chef-owner. So I had to decline and think nothing of it. Then Zoe Maslow, my editor from Penguin Random House and my good friend, texted me. He said, “Congratulations!” And I replied, “What the fuck is it for?” He then sent me a picture of the prize that someone had posted on Twitter.

It was completely unexpected and, frankly, spectacular, especially coming out of the last three years of fighting like crazy. Restaurants are hard to start, and I had already closed two this year to focus on Fat Pasha, Fet Zun and Schmaltz.

Staffing has always been a problem, even during regular times. It is always difficult to find enough staff, good staff, and then it is expensive to train staff and keep them at the same level as the quality of what we do. The pandemic absolutely made that worse – no question about it. At the start of the pandemic we laid everyone off, including myself. Money was not coming in.

The Bib Gourmand award turned it all around, like, overnight. We are extremely lucky. We are certainly doing a ton more business — I would say 25 percent more. We have definitely seen people pre-ordering.

We serve good Jewish food here. The atmosphere is very casual, very raucous – like a big bar mitzvah every night. And over the last four or five years of regular business, it would slow down a lot during the high holidays – all the Jewish high holidays like Passover, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah and all that jazz. But lately, over the last three weeks, we’ve still been pretty busy on the high holidays. So it’s definitely new customers—less Jews. Even on Thanksgiving, we thought it would be slower, but we were pretty busy.

I never expected a Michelin star. It’s not our style at all. I’ve been to some starred restaurants around the world, and to tell the truth, I always go looking for the Bib Gourmands anyway.

Like what you read?

Get 12 print issues for $24.99!


Magazine covers


Source link