As the calendar inches toward Nov. 17 -- the day Chicago chefs learn if they've earned Michelin stars -- the chatter is ramping up.
Earlier this week, Blackbird's Paul Kahan (below) wrote on Soapbox, a digital magazine for chefs run by publicist Ellen Malloy, that he received an email from the Michelin folks asking for the best way to reach him on the morning of Nov. 17.
"Hopefully, that's good," Kahan wrote.
'Tis very good. Michelin's (outgoing) worldwide director Jean-Luc Naret calls each chef who's earned one, two or three stars. He'll be making those calls starting at 8 a.m. Nov. 17, a spokeswoman said. So, it's a safe bet Kahan has earned at least one star.
Alinea's Grant Achatz and Curtis Duffy of Avenues say they've also been asked by Michelin for their phone numbers. (Charlie Trotter and L20's Laurent Gras, both of whom many speculate are star-worthy contenders, didn't return calls. Gras might be incommunicado because of his tenuous work situation being reported today.)
While Jim Colombo, right-hand man for Graham Elliot, declined to say whether Michelin had reached out to Elliot for his contact information, he was verrry pleasantly surprised to hear that Naret calls every starred chef personally. "Oh, really? That's great," Colombo exclaimed.
Duffy, who plans to gather his staff and even media over to his North Side home at around 6 a.m. that morning, says he doesn't anticipate getting a three-star rating -- the highest -- "although it's a beautiful dream to have. A three-star is going to be something we push for. Just being nominated, it's an honor." Colombo played down the potential glory, saying, "We're a bunch of big weirdos, so we'll probably shoot something out of a cannon, or take our clothes off and post pictures on Twitter."
Speaking of, the Michelin folks will be on Twitter to announce the stars, but only after Naret has called each chef. Expect the online chatter to virtually explode with chefs also taking to Twitter. "Of course I will [tweet] -- if it's good news," Achatz (below) says.
Achatz is, of course, hoping for three stars. He says he and his team plan on attending the reception on the evening of Nov. 17.
And if they've earned three stars, Achatz says they'll go back to the restaurant afterward -- dinner service will be in full swing -- and, "we're going to come in and stop service and open some really nice Champagne and give it to everybody in the restaurant. . . There's really only two options for us -- we get three star and we celebrate . . . Or we get anything less than three and we're kind of disgruntled."
Meanwhile, look for the Michelin Chicago Bib Gourmands -- the inspectors' picks for best values -- to be announced Thursday. Restaurants might want to be on the lookout for people wielding sidewalk chalk; in New York and San Francisco, each Bib Gourmand selection found a drawing of a Michelin man on their sidewalk that morning.