Maurizio Campiverdi. Photos: Lido Vannucchi (courtesy Maretti Editore)
This article originally appeared on VICE Italy.
If you love good food – by that I mean unsurpassed luxury food and not just the good souvlaki from the van near your apartment – then three Michelin star restaurants are the holy grail. These are the places designed to deliver the best meal of your life. They specialize in visionary cuisine, service that makes you feel like a duke, and small but incredible details you won’t find anywhere else (I’m thinking of La Pergola in Rome, where regular customers receive personalized towels with their embroidered initials).
Over the past six decades, Italian writer Maurizio Campiverdi, 79, has visited almost every three Michelin star restaurant in the world, and his new book, Tre Stelle Michelin (“Three Michelin Stars”), is an eye-opening tour of the world of elite catering. The book – the latest iteration in a series he has published since the 1980s – is like an encyclopedia, containing anecdotes, fact sheets, thoughts and anecdotes about these near-mythological restaurants, since their first appearance in 1933 until today.
âI wanted to sum up 60 years of gastronomic travel,â says Campiverdi.
Campiverdi (sometimes called Maurice Von Greenfields) is an eccentric man: pleasantly snobbish, passionate about food and able to drop comments like: âIf I’m in Modena and call Massimo Bottura, he will give me a table. ”
His passion for Michelin starred restaurants began when he was only 12 years old. âThat’s when my father took me for the first time to La Pyramide in Vienne, near Lyon,â he says. But, as he shows in the book, the history of Michelin stars goes back even further.
The Michelin Guide was created in France in 1889 by the Michelin brothers, two owners of rubber factories famous for their tires. Their idea was to make a manual for the very few car owners in France at the time. The cars were recently introduced to the mass market, and the Michelin Brothers’ Guide gave new owners a reason to hit the roads and wear out their tires. It has classified places of food and accommodation, with stars awarded to restaurants and red houses awarded to hotels.
âWhen I started this hobby,â says Campiverdi, âthere were only 23 three-star restaurants. Today there are many more. But these days, I’m rarely amazed by a dish. Almost everything has been seen now. However, I recently ate an Enrico Bartolini risotto at Mudec which moved me.
The Michelin Guide is famous for its mysterious anonymity. The inspectors are unknown, even to each other, and the criteria they use to judge are secret. But some things are constant. The guide maintains a preference for French restaurants and French cuisine, and there are differences in the criteria applied to establishments in the west and in the east. In Europe, you would never see a family cafe or pizzeria receiving a Michelin star, but across much of Asia considerable recognition is given to street food.
âSometimes Michelin’s behavior cannot be explained. Even after 60 years, some things remain obscure to me, âsays Campiverdi. âIn my opinion, there should be more two-star and less than three-star restaurants. I’m afraid not all of them are worth it.
In Tre Stelle Michelin, he claims that a huge increase in prices over the past few years has caused a certain loss of charm for many Michelin-rated restaurants. Quite simply, most of us can’t afford to drop $ 400 on dinner, no matter how much âmovesâ us.
“I don’t like how this new role of ‘celebrity chefs’ clogs reservation systems, not allowing mere mortals to eat there,” Campiverdi says. His book gives credit to the recent creation of a Michelin “green star”, which rewards restaurants. that make for sustainable cooking, and seems to show the organization’s willingness to stay relevant.
Despite all the elegance, Campiverdi says he’s witnessed a number of memorable faux pas over the years. In the late 1960s, after a meal at Michel GuÃ©rard’s pioneering nouvelle cuisine restaurant, the chef came out and offered Campiverdi’s table four glasses of Calvados brandy, each aged 40 respectively. , 60, 80 and 100 years old. âThe next morning we found out that they had billed us for them! roared Campiverdi. Liquors, he tells me, are meant to be offered at the end of a meal, “for free.” They were offered a refund, but it was not enough.
âThis is not how you pay for an insult,â he said. âSo we told him we were going to each take a bottle in the cellar. I came home with a 1907 cognac, beloved by King Edward VII. “
On 700 pages, Tre Stelle Michelin goes from ecstatic fine dining to charming rants about how apples are the future of food. In each chapter, I found myself wanting to follow Campiverdi on his next adventure. “I still have three left to visit in Europe,” he told me. “As soon as we can travel again, I will go to Enoteca Pinchiorri [a historic restaurant in Florence]. “
At the end of our conversation, I can’t help but hope that one day, maybe when I’m 79, I can pick up the phone and say, “Hey, Massimo, I’m in Modena, can you? you keep me a table? “