The hallowed Michelin Guide awarded stars to 23 Chicago restaurants Tuesday, with the highest honor -- the coveted three stars -- going to Alinea and L20, as many food lovers had speculated.
The announcement by Michelin came a day after a person posted on the online review site Yelp a purported list of the restaurants that had received stars. The poster, listed as David "Primo" R., said he had a copy of the guide, which was slated to be released Thursday. His list was identical to what Michelin released this morning.
Jean-Luc Naret, Michelin's worldwide director, called each chef who had earned a star.
Grant Achatz, Alinea's chef, acknowledged the announcement and Naret's call felt "a little bit" anticlimactic, but added, "In today's day and age, with the way the Internet is, it's gonna happen. It is what it is. And it really screwed up Michelin ... Whether I hear today or tomorrow, does it really matter? Not really."
Achatz still planned on attending the reception Wednesday evening and returning to his restaurant, shutting it down, "opening a lot of champagne" and toasting with his staff and diners.
"These things come in life very rarely, and I've done a poor job of this in the past, which is embracing and celebrating the moment," Achatz said. "I'm going to really try and embrace this one."
Among the first chefs to announce their good news on Twitter were Bonsoiree's Shin Thompson and Boka's Giuseppe Tentori. Tentori wrote, "Just got the call. Boka receives one star from Michelin, you are the first to know. And thanks to my team!"
Avec, a favorite among Chicago's food cognoscenti which recently re-opened after a fire this summer, did not earn a star. Its chef, Paul Kahan, had this to say on Twitter: "In the begining, they didn't understand the clash either. Avec rules." Kahan's other restaurant, Blackbird, earned one star, and his gastropub the Publican was named a Bib Gourmand (best value) pick last week.
Also earning stars: newcomer Ria in the Elysian Hotel; Schwa, the notoriously-hard-to-get-a-reservation-at restaurant whose chef Michael Carlson and kitchen crew double as waitstaff, and Longman & Eagle, a hipster whiskey-focused gastropub in Logan Square.
L20's chef, Laurent Gras, quietly and mysteriously left the Lincoln Park restaurant earlier this month, citing personal reasons.
This is the first Chicago edition of the hallowed Michelin restaurant guide, considered in Europe to be the authoritative source on the world's best restaurants and hotels. In 2005, Michelin introduced its first-ever North American guide; New York was the debut city.
The company prides itself on its rigorous review process and the fierce anonymity under which its "inspectors" operate.
Naret says Michelin inspectors ate their way around Chicago for two years before finalizing their decisions in September.
Last week, Michelin announced the Chicago recipients of the Bib Gourmand, which designates the best value restaurants. Forty-six restaurants earned that title.