For veterans of Los Angeles’s white-tablecloth restaurants, both the cooks and diners have changed since Michelin was last in town. Josiah Citrin, the chef/owner of Melisse, which last had two stars in the 2009 Michelin guide and is currently closed fo [sic], says cooks have gotten more focused, seeking out experience at Melisse specifically to learn fine dining techniques and tenants. “Let’s talk about 20 years ago,” he said on the phone with me last spring. “I don’t think there were other options to learn how to cook good food with great ingredients. You went to these fine dining restaurants, either what we were in LA at that time, or in anywhere in the country. There wasn’t this in between.” Today, the cooks he sees joining the team at Melisse are “really into this kind of dining, this kind of cooking, this kind of plateware.”
Chef Michael Cimarusti and his business partner Donato Poto of Los Angeles’s Providence — which earned two stars 2009 — agreed. Since Michelin left, the partners have opened several casual restaurants, while continuing to hone in on what fine dining means over at their flagship. “The landscape here in LA is just much, much broader than it was before. Obviously, it’s a much deeper pool than it used to be, and by and large, I think that’s a good thing,” Cimarusti said during the last Michelin rumor cycle. “I think people in general are much more informed when they walk through the door.” That means cooks, servers, and, importantly, diners.
… in its very design, Michelin is more for out-of-towners than locals. Designed to encourage drivers to drive more (and wear their tires down) by recommending restaurants to visit (and boy is there a lot of driving to do here), a California guide can still help restaurants attract an international clientele that still relies on the red book. Cimarusti and Poto told me they still get first-time guests in who learned about Providence from Michelin.