The esteemed but sometimes contentious Michelin Guide is back with its 2022 list of starred California restaurants, revealed at a ceremony on December 6. Following a yearlong hiatus in 2020 at the height of COVID, Michelin last updated its list of California restaurants in 2021. While followers of the list won’t find any major upsets this year, the guide welcomed a new three-star restaurant to its ranks—Addison in San Diego, which serves what it describes as “California gastronomy”—for a total of seven three-star restaurants. Twelve restaurants were awarded two stars (compared to 14 last year), while 70 restaurants received a single star, up from 65 in 2021.
In 2021, Michelin recognized 85 California restaurants with Michelin stars, considered one of the highest honors in the fine dining world. In 2022 that number rose to 89, protecting California’s reputation as the nation’s largest hub of Michelin-starred restaurants. California is home to more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other US state—New York comes second with 73.
While six restaurants maintained their top-tier status last year, no new restaurants until Addison had been awarded three stars since the now-closed Coi in 2018. In light of the pandemic, Michelin held off on revoking stars for restaurants that remained open through in 2021—a policy which is no longer in place this year. Notably absent from this year’s list is the previously two-starred Vespertine, a heady fine dining restaurant which, as detailed in a February 2022 article published by Eater, faced allegations of creating a “soul-crushing” environment for workers. Vespertine closed temporarily earlier this year but has since reopened for private events only. The restaurant’s Instagram account suggests the restaurant may reopen for dine-in service soon, with its bio reading “Returning Winter 2022”—which would be, well, now.
According to the guide’s rating system, one star is “worth a stop,” two stars is “worth a detour,” and three stars (the most a restaurant can receive) is “worth a special journey.” Michelin’s review process is shrouded in mystery, relying on surprise visits from anonymous critics to restaurants around the world. The French tire company started the list as a travel companion for drivers looking to make roadside stops, but it has since become one of the most sought-after recognitions in the food world.
In 2020, Michelin also introduced green stars, an award that recognizes “culinary excellence with outstanding eco-friendly commitments,” according to the guide. The green star is an additional recognition, which the guide emphasizes does not replace stars or Bibs. A green star is “a stand-alone distinction which can be awarded alongside other distinctions.” California is home to nine restaurants awarded a green star, including newcomers Caruso’s in Montecito, and the Restaurant at Justin in Pasa Robles.
Along with its stars, Michelin awards restaurants with Bib Gourmands, an award Michelin describes as “not quite a star.” The Bib list highlights affordable restaurants, a label that’s in flux amid inflation and skyrocketing menu prices. Michelin stars are disproportionately awarded to European and Japanese-influenced restaurants, while Bibs generally represent a wider swath of cuisines. Michelin is often criticized for overlooking cuisines central to many cities’ culinary landscapes when awarding stars. The Bibs—which the guide emphasizes are not simply a consolation prize—accounts for some of those gaps.
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