The path of how chefs get rated can be an extremely difficult road to navigate. Unfortunately, here is no one standardised system. Instead, we rely on several different factors for rating and comparing chefs.
Naturally when it comes to cooking and cuisine standards, viewpoints will vary. However, we can still look at measurements to decide who are the best chefs around!
To rate chefs we rely on a combination of 3 factors. They are, number of awards won, reviews by peers and food critics, and general public perception. All these factors have their positive and negative points as we shall see.
In this article we will break down the main factors used to rate chefs so that readers have an understanding of why some chefs rise to the top, while others struggle at the bottom.
What Awards Can Chefs Win?
Perhaps the most well known award a chef can win is a Michelin Star. This rating system is used throughout the world and is highly regarded and respect by the restaurant industry.
(The costs of eating at a Michelin Star restaurant)
In the UK, restaurants can also be awarded an AA Rosette (or multiple). This is another highly respected award that signifies high cuisine standards and a great ambience.
There are also many highly prized media awards such as restaurant of the year, chef of the year etc. These can be awarded in both national and local press. These awards tend to be a little more subject to interpretation so are not as easy to use when comparing chefs side by side.
Last but not least, there are television show awards that can have a tremendously positive impact on a chefs career. ‘Masterchef the professionals‘ and ‘the great British menu’ are great example of highly sought after awards that help us when rating chefs.
All these awards allow us to rate chefs, (particularly head chefs or executive chefs) in a large part, because they are well respected within the industry. One of these awards is a chance to gain some recognition for a job well done.
Are Michelin Stars A Good Way Of Rating Chefs?
Michelin Stars are seen as the gold standard for rating chefs. It is common to hear the phrase ‘Michelin Star chef’ which is a testament to how well known and respected the Michelin Guide is.
The guide has suffered criticism in the past for favouring certain cuisine types. However, in recent years they have made huge leaps in recognising great food no matter the setting, highlighted by a catering stall in Singapore which received a star.
Michelin inspectors are undercover diners with a vast knowledge of food. The Michelin Guide is very secretive regarding its selection process and the identity and backgrounds of their inspectors.
That being said, we do know that they are full time employees of the guide and get paid to travel all over the world, eating up to 10 meals a week!
An inspector will visit a hotel, restaurant, or other venue multiple times to ensure that standards are high whichever night of the week a diner happens to visit.
This high level of secrecy, coupled with the knowledge and experienced of the inspectors, ensures that the stars awarded are highly valued within the industry. As yet there is no greater way of ranking the top level chefs on a numerical basis other than how many Michelin Stars they have won.
Note: A chef is not awarded a Michelin Star, but rather it is awarded to the restaurant. However, we commonly refer to the chef as having the stars.
The downside of using Michelin stars to rate chefs is that not everyone wants one! There are reports of chefs ‘giving their stars back’ and asking to be removed from the guide as demonstrated in this article featuring Marco Pierre White.
Any individual who declines a star has their own reason for not wanting one, but in general it is because they disagree with the rating system and do not want to be a part of it. Whether this is just chefs artistic temperament or valid concerns is open to interpretation.
If you owned a restaurant would you want it to win a star? The answer may seem obvious but if you give it some thought there are downsides.
Would customers be put off because they associate Michelin Stars with expensive small portions? What if you subsequently lost the star, would people stop coming because your standards have slipped?
As we can see even the Michelin Star system is open to interpretation. So maybe food critic reviews are a more accurate way of rating chefs.
Are Food Critic Reviews A Good Way Of Rating Chefs?
Reviews by food critics and peers can be a great way to rate chefs. Experts rating other experts is a model for critiquing someones contribution that is relied on throughout the world.
The downside with cuisine is that unlike others industries, such as science, cooking is an art form which is open to interpretation.
As a chef I hated dill. I came around to being able to taste it but never enjoyed it. I mention this as an example to demonstrate that I would struggle to give a high review to cuisine which included dill. My personal preference is to dislike the dish.
This is perhaps the biggest hurdle when it comes to critic reviews. We all have personal tastes around food. What one person loves another may hate and they have to be able to put their personal option aside in order to fairly rate the experience.
Personal dislike is not such a problem when it comes to peer reviews by other chefs. As chefs are professionals they can appreciate and admire great cuisine without having to necessarily enjoy eating it.
Food critics can have a love hate relationship with chefs. Some come across as very knowledgable and fair in their judgement, whist others unfortunately seem to take great pleasure in writing scathing reviews.
It can be very difficult to determine if the food critic is being fair or not!
That being said, some of the best critics gain a reputation for being among the best in the world and their opinion is highly prized. Take the critics on the Great British menu for example, theirs is an opinion worth its weight in gold.
Local media reviews can also be very muddy waters to navigate. It sometimes appears that the best reviews are given to those with friends in the media, or those businesses which spend a large amount of advertising revenue.
Of course, there are plenty of local reviews by genuine critics with sound knowledge and an unbiased opinion. Unfortunately sifting out the good from the bad can be a little tricky at times in my opinion.
All in all, reviews by critics and peers are a good way to rate chefs, so long as they are taken with a pinch of salt.
As a chef, I will pay attention to a restaurant reviews that I read, but I will keep an open mind until I experience it for myself or one of my industry colleagues dines there.
We can see that reviews within the industry are a little bit of a minefield when it comes to rating chefs. Perhaps a better alternative is to look at reviews by their customers, the general public.
Are Online Reviews A Good Way To Rate Chefs?
With the explosion of online review sites, such as trip advisor, we now have access to a vast amount of reviews in order to rate chefs.
Despite awards and accolades, ultimately the best way to rate a chef may be if the general public choose to eat at their restaurants and enjoy it!
When all is said and done, even a restaurant with multiple awards may not survive because the public don’t enjoy it. For whatever reason the place doesn’t click with customers leading them to post less positive online reviews.
Many people choose to look at online reviews before dining at a venue. I know if I am in a new city I will google local restaurants and pay attention to the number of stars on google.
As well as online reviews, old fashioned word of mouth is another great way to raise a local chefs profile.
When diners enjoy their meal they will tell their friends, who will tell their friends and before you know it the restaurant is sold out and the chef has a high rating in the local community.
Online reviews coupled with word of mouth is a great way to rate chefs locally. However, we should be aware of the danger of relying on other customer reviews, and that is that people are far more likely to spread a bad review than a good one.
Think of all the great meals you have had and how many times you have felt compelled to write an online review. Now contrast that with the last time you had a bad experience, how quickly where you wanting to write a review to warn others?
This is a problem that can lead to an unfair biased towards negative reviews. Perhaps the restaurant was perfectly nice and the customer was just one of those awkward customers everyone in the service industry has experienced.
Online reviews definitely have their place, but they still have their limitations when it comes to rating chefs.
What Is The Best Method For Rating Chefs?
Having looked at all the options, in my opinion the fairest way to rate chefs is via the Michelin Star and Rosette award systems. These are highly respected, and importantly unbiased, opinions of industry professionals.
Within the catering industry these awards are a great way of rating chefs and play a huge role in deciding if a chef gets a job and even factors in determining how much they get paid.
- A head chef that has a Michelin Star on their CV can command a lot more respect and ask for higher wages in return for the skill set they bring.
- A chef with a good rating among their peers in the local community also has a lot more options when it comes to securing a new job.
- A chef with a positive food critic review, a local award or high online rating has a positive on their CV but not as great a boast as the other two factors mentioned.
- Some chefs choose to try and get famous by going on shows such as come dine with me, or even I’m a celebrity! Whilst this doesn’t increase the cuisine standards its certainly a way to get your restaurant out there into the public consciousness.
When it comes to how highly we are rated as a chef, we are ultimately judged by other chefs as these are the people with industry specific knowledge. Chefs themselves place such a high value on rosettes and Michelin Stars as they know these cannot be manipulated like the other rating criteria can be.
Having looked at the various options available we can see that taking into account all the various rating factors is important. It is very difficult to make a like by like comparison on a subject of which chef is better than another in a field which is so open to interpretation.
- A painting adored by one person, would be thrown away by another.
- One person’s highly rated chef would be dismissed by another.
Chefs cover such a broad range of skill sets and possibilities that to rate them is tricky. As a chef starting out it is important to always maintain a high standard and cook to the best of your ability.
Maintaining high standards is perhaps the most important quality when judging how good a chef is, as those who consistently perform well will always be admired by others.