It’s not just the exquisitely inventive, palate-thrilling culinary creations which make a meal out worthy of a Michelin star. It is, of course, the staff – the friendly bonjour at the door, the knowledgeable wine advice, the flourish à table when a dish of astonishing beauty is presented.
Which is why Michelin celebrates not just chefs but the waiting staff, sommeliers and pastry chefs who make dining out such a joy.
This year, Gaby Benicio, sommelier at the Michelin-star Äponem – Auberge du Presbytère in Vailhan, and Cyril Kocher, of the Michelin green star restaurant Thierry Schwartz – Le Restaurant in Obernai, receive the 2023 Michelin Sommelier Award. Both self-taught wine specialists – the former a doctor of sociology and a photographer, the latter originally destined to become a cook – share a vision of their profession that is sensitive, enthusiastic, and committed. For example, Gaby Benicio freely speaks of transcendental moments of grace when tasting a wine, while Cyril Kocher describes himself as a wine tourist whose mission is to connect a producer with a consumer. Passionate guardians of naturally-made wines and unusual yet precise food-and-wine pairs, both nurture close relationships with winemakers.
The Michelin Service Award is presented to Claire Sonnet of Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse at L’Hôtel de Paris in Monaco, and to Frédéric Rouen of the L’Alter-Native restaurant in Béziers.
Seven new addresses are awarded the Passion Dessert prize, which recognises establishments that elevate desserts and the confectionery arts to the highest level. The seven new Passion Dessert establishments for sweet-toothed foodies to add to their must-visit list are: Flocons de Sel (Aurélie Collomb-Clerc) in Megève; Le Baudelaire (Pierre-Jean Quinonero) in Paris; Le Jules Verne (Germain Decreton) in Paris; Les Explorateurs – Hôtel Pashmina (Sébastien Deléglise) in Val Thorens; Mirazur (Marius Dufay) in Menton; Rouge (François Josse) in Nîmes; and Troisgros – Le Bois sans Feuilles (César Troisgros and Romain Puybarbeau) in Ouches.
Not surprisingly, as the industry bible, Michelin has one eye on the future, and this year its Young Chef Award went to 26-year-old Mallory Gabsi, whose first eponymous restaurant – which only opened in 2022 – also claimed its first Michelin star.
And last but not least, the Michelin Mentor Chef Award went to Michel Troisgros in recognition of his avant-garde conversion of the Troisgros establishment, with locations from Ouches to Roanne; for passing along his expertise to his sons César and Léo; and for his dedication to fostering a number of people throughout his career who have become key figures on today’s gastronomic scene.