Western European in-fighting aside, others around the industry have raised a brow at Italy’s relative underrepresentation in the Red Guide’s pages. “Italy has absurdly few three-star restaurants, apparently because the criteria of complexity and presentation aren’t up to Michelin -- French -- standards,” wrote A.E. Hotchner in an unflattering 2012 overview of Michelin for Vanity Fair.
But what about Japan? It’s got the most three-star spots in the world, so surely the guide can’t be accused of rote French favoritism, right? Ahem, Hotchner writes, “The city with the most stars is Tokyo, but then... most [of its restaurants] benefit from the Gallic reverence for O.C.D. saucing and solitary boy’s knife skills.” It gets uglier, and not just at the defense of Italy's restaurants, but of its foreign food ambassadors, too. “[W]hy oh why, do you so obviously hate Mario Batali,” demanded Robert Sietsema, the prolific, former critic for the Village Voice, in a 2009 upbraid to Michelin for its arbitrary and (in his opinion) less-than-useful reviews of NYC’s restaurants. “Is it because he doesn't give a [expletive] about French food?” Yikes.