Then and Now
Anyone who's ever visited Paris and watched the traffic compete for space around the Arc de Triomphe is amazed at the chaos, accompanied by honks of the horn, angry shouts and gestures, the screeching of brakes and the sound of the tires, skipping over the cobblestones in humming, rhythmic patters.
What might be even more amazing is what they'd see if they were teleported back in time to that very spot at the start of the 20th century. Around the most famous traffic circle of all, the flurry of cars, trucks, busses, motorcycles and scooters jockeying for position would be replaced by horse-drawn carriages and bicycles.
That's because in 1900, there were only 3,000 motorcars throughout all of France. The dawn of the automobile hadn't quite begun - but that was about to change.
Two brothers, Andre and Edouard Michelin, had a hunch that there just might be a future for automobiles. And if there was, their company, Michelin & Cie., with the revolutionary pneumatic approach they developed for bicycles, would be perfectly positioned to sell something that each automobile needed at least four of: tires. With so few of them on the road, though, they figured if more people knew there were places they could go for help if their vehicle broke down, they just might travel more. And if they travelled more, they'd not only need replacement tires, they'd be encouraging others to see, want and buy a motorcar of their own. They wanted to develop a customer base that brought them repeat business, something we now recognize as the basis of Marketing.
They published a fact book for motorists, for France and called it the Guide Michelin (known as the Michelin Guide in English). It contained crucial information such as where to gas up, find mechanics, hotels, battery specialists and, of course, where they could get their tires checked, changed and replaced.
The brothers published and gave away 35,000 copies that first year. The Guide Michelin was deemed such a success that it was repeated annually, and expanded.
Earning a Star
Twenty-six years later, the Guide published its first restaurant reviews, rewarding stars to venues where gourmet cuisine could be had where the food merited a recommendation. Today, a Michelin star is coveted and, according to the Michelin Travel website, the "limited number of restaurants chosen for the MICHELIN Guides are all highly recommended, but earning a star is seen as one of the highest honours in the industry."
The Rubber Meets the Road and the Stars Meet the Sky
Michelin is no stranger to aviation: they were pioneers in aviation tires, where performance and reliability are paramount when the rubber hits the road or, in this instance, the runway. The The Michelin stars that comprise the Red Guide, as it's become known due to its red colour, have become a brand of their own, symbolizing quality and excellence that is a cut above the rest. In the world of VIP aviation, where catering to clients who expect the extraordinary is the norm, the power of the Michelin star is being embraced to help support and promote their products and services. Here are three three delicious examples of what happens when Michelin stars meet the sky.
1. The Jersey Michelin Star Lunch Experience from PrivateFly - PrivateFly - based in the UK, but connecting VIPs with executive jets everywhere - runs a global executive aircraft booking service. Their Jersey Michelin Star Lunch Experience package takes off from either London's Luton or Stapleford airports and takes you to the Island of Jersey, part of the Channel Islands, situated just off the North East coast of the French département of Normandy.
MSN Senior Food Editor Craig Butcher describes the Michelin Guide as the "Oscars of the foodie world" and with four Jersey restaurants capturing stars in the 2014 edition, Jersey may well have the greatest saturation of Michelin stars ever awarded. Known first and foremost as a tax haven, Jersey is also renowned for its restaurants and bars.
The Michelin Star Lunch Experience takes its jetsetters on a day outing, visiting three of the four restaurants bearing Michelin stars on that island: Tassili, Bohemia Restaurant and Ocean Restaurant.
Tassili is the restaurant that anchors the 5-star Grand Jersey Hotel & Spa. Tassili's executive chef, Richard Allen, has received numerous awards in addition to the Michelin star he first secured for the restaurant in 2011. In a 2013 interview with Luxury Jersey Hotels, Allen praises the Jersey's local produce and workforce. "To be able to access such a high level of produce and culinary technique all within the island's shores is incredible and makes us a real gourmet destination." Tassili has a lunch menu which includes starters of mackerel, beetroot and foie gras, and main courses of John Dory, quail and pork.
Bohemia Bar & Restaurant is located in the exclusive The Club Hotel & Spa. Head Chef Steve Smith joined the already Michelin-starred Bohemia in 2013, having received his first Michelin star while head chef at Gordelton Mill in Hampshire, UK, when he was just 24. Smith is regarded as one of not just the UK's top chefs but a global top chef, with stars, rosettes and awards following everywhere he goes, including the American Express Australian Restaurant of the Year title when he worked in Melbourne. Bohemia's lunch sample menu includes scallops with broccoli and eel, and artichoke risotto with wild garlic and Chabi Cendre (goat cheese).
Ocean Restaurant is part of the Atlantic Hotel, which earlier this month, won The Cateys Independent Hotel of the Year Award 2014. Ocean's Head Chef, Mark Jordan, is involved in many different projects including a cooking show called Jersey Royals which is named after the local Jersey potato with the same name. Jordan, in addition to BBC appearances, contributed recipes along with 8 other UK chefs for a cookbook for people with cancer, which was published earlier this year, and he hosted his first Facebook cook-a-long in April of this year. Lunch menus include main courses of lamb liver, skate - a local fish, and wild mushrooms.
Cost for the Michelin Star Lunch Experience varies depending on the group and the type of aircraft preferred, but costs range from £584 to £1,015 per person. In addition to lunch, you'll have time in the afternoon to enjoy the beach or get in a round of golf before you and your group flies back to London.
PrivateFly's Marketing Director, Carol Cork, says this trip has generated an enormous amount of interest.
"It really does epitomize the ultimate luxury experience in one day, without breaking the bank," she says. "I think that's why it is proving so popular with corporates and luxury leisure travellers alike. "
2. PrivaJet's Michelin-starred Flying Chefs - When Malta-based VVIP management and charter services company PrivaJet recently refurbished its Boeing Business Jet (BBJ), it decided to up the ante on personalized services by adding a Flying Chef service to its 19-seat extra-large business jet. And the Flying Chefs? They're supplied through an agreement with Yves Mattagne, the owner and Executive Chef of the Michelin two-starred Sea Grill, located in Brussels, Belgium.
As legend has it, Mattagne was only 8 years old when he discovered fine dining at a restaurant called Les Pingouins when his family vacationed at the Belgian Coast. Now 50, Mattagne has had many great successes in his career as a chef, which began in earnest after he finished his military service with the Belgian Army, which was, at the time, mandatory for most Belgian males.
Now, at 50, he's had two Michelin stars under his belt for nearly 30 years -- the second star came a mere four years after his first star was earned. By that time, he'd already developed an impressive curriculum vitae, including an 8-month stint under the great Parisian chef Jacques le Divellec at the restaurant that bore his name. The "Le Divellec" specialized in fish and seafood and Le Divellec went beyond the normal fish most people knew and were comfortable with. His menu had 10 different sorts of fish from which to choose, sourced from the coastal waters of Brittany.
He drew then had French silversmithing company Christofle to create a Lobster Press - there were only a handful of them ever made - and Mattagne's Sea Grill has one of them, worth around € 50,000 . Although the Sea Grill's menu is always changing, "Homard a la Presse" is always available, at the ready for lobster fans. The dish itself is prepared in the way that great restaurants make Cherries Jubilee or Crème Brûlée - at your table, where the juice collected from the lobster press is used to make a mousse to season and link the bisque to accompany the lobster meat.
PrivaJet's spacious BBJ, which has been described as a flying luxury apartment, can seat up to 19 people, and it holds a range record of 6,000 nautical miles, able to travel from London to Los Angeles. The BBJ can travel for more than 12 hours without refuelling, which means travellers can enjoy not one, but two gourmet meals.
"We have spent the last six months with Yves Mattagne and his team to develop something unique," explains PrivaJet's Sales Director, Jerome Franier. "This is the first-ever Michelin 2-star dining service at 41,000 ft. Our cuisine needs to be exceptional and this partnership demonstrates the level of excellence we are aiming for in terms of service for our clients.”
The hourly cost of renting the BBJ, which comes with a staff of six, is unpublished by PrivaJet because, as Franier explains, "this depends on many factors (handling fees, airport taxes, catering sepcific requests, etc." Whatever the price tag, PrivaJet doesn't seem to have problems finding and maintaining a customer base, aimed at the very wealthy and heads of state. In fact, the BBJ began a mission in the Middle East days after leaving Jet Aviation's facilities in Basel, Switzerland, where the 6-month long refurbishment was performed.
3. Air France's Michelin-starred Chefs - Joël Robuchon has done something that no one else has ever achieved. The French chef and restauranteur has 28 Michelin stars, distributed amongst his dozen restaurants, dotted around the world. Passengers seated in Air France's La Première cabin on selected routes will, until the end of July, ('Première' is French for First Class), be treated to Robuchon's creations, such as lobster with Malabar pepper, or roasted Guinea fowl with a garden salad of spring peas and orange honey.
This isn't the first time that Robuchon has been involved with Air France. Back in December and January, one of his designer dishes was featured in La Première on all long-haul flights. And he's not the only Michelin-starred star chef used to promote - and promoted by - Air France. Others meal designers include Régis Marcon from the hotel-restaurant Régis & Jacques Marcon, Guy Martin from Paris' oldest restaurant, Le Grand Véfour, which celebrates its 230th birthday this year; Michel Roth from the Ritz Paris and Anne-Sophie Pic, the first woman in France with three Michelin stars, from Maison Pic.
Air France, is committed to fine food. In a press release announcing the engagement of one of the Michelin-starred chefs, the airline said it was doing this to "promote its role of ambassador of fine cuisine around the world."
Earlier this year, Air France launched a media campaign called "Air France: France is in the air" with a series of ads and social media campaigns to help celebrate its 80th year of existence as well as its pride in the French connections it has nurtured and maintained. Uniforms, for example, have been created by a variety of French design houses such as Nina Ricci, Louis Feraud, Jean Patou, Maison Virginie, Christian Lacroix, Georgette de Treze and Balenciaga. Many other aspects, including their corporate offices, have borne the distinct signatures of various French masters. In first class, however, the new, cutting-edge seat-suite (above) which will be rolled out in September to all nineteen Boeing 777-300's that make up its long-haul suite, the design was done by British firm Priestman Goode.
Stars with Rounded Ends
"Bib", the Michelin Man, personified from a pile of stacked tires, is Michelin's brand ambassador. Already in use in ads before the first Michelin Guide was published, his rounded and ringed body was used to inspire the shape of the Michelin stars, whose six elongated half-circles are instantly recognizable to connoisseurs everywhere.
Michelin rewards up to three stars and the judges - actually they're full-time professional inspectors - consider only the food on the plate when making their recommendations. One star indicates a very good restaurant with food prepared to a consistently high standards. Two stars denote excellent cuisine, with skilfully and carefully crafted quality dishes. Three stars reward exceptional cuisine, with distinctive dishes that are worth the journey.
Find out more about the Michelin Guides, the judging and the restaurants on their lists here.