HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — For the past decade, California chefs hoping to acquire a Michelin star—one of the most prestigious honors in the culinary world—had to be highly skilled, wildly passionate about their craft...and they needed to work in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Michelin used to produce a Los Angeles guide but halted its operations there in 2009. Despite a rich and varied restaurant scene across the length of the Golden State, Michelin had never sent its anonymous critics beyond California's two biggest urban centers.
Until now, that is.
With the release of the 2019 Michelin Guide California, the influential French media company has expanded its coverage to once again include Los Angeles—as well as San Diego County, Orange County, Santa Barbara, Monterey, and Sacramento. This more inclusive approach resulted in Michelin adding 27 new one-star restaurants and seven new two-star restaurants to the state's tally, giving California a total of 90 starred establishments.
It's also the first-ever statewide edition of the acclaimed global restaurant guide.
“Michelin is honored to reveal the 2019 star selection and to celebrate the talented California chefs and their teams included in the first statewide guide in the U.S.,” said Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the Michelin Guides. “California’s trendsetting, laid-back, and health-conscious culinary scene continues to boom, and as a result is an amazing showcase for the great local produce.”
Acclaimed chefs and restaurateurs from across the Golden State converged on the Paséa Hotel & Spa in Huntington Beach Monday evening to learn who among them had earned one, two, or three stars in the 2019 guide. The culinary firepower on hand was considerable, and the excitement for the newly expanded Michelin Guide was palpable.
Michael Cimarusti, the Los Angeles-based chef of Providence, huddled with Kyle and Katina Connaughton of Healdsburg's SingleThread. Jonathan Yao, the chef at Kato and a Food & Wine Best New Chef honoree, stood and watched the action unfold, taking everything in. José Andrés (Somni) and Ludo Lefebvre (Petit Trois) worked the room while some newly minted star recipients snapped selfies and posed with the Michelin mascot.
Twenty-four of the newly starred restaurants are located in Los Angeles County. Orange County's Taco María and Hana Re each earned one star, as did Addison (San Diego), The Kitchen (Sacramento), and Aubergine (Monterey). Between its star ratings, Bib Gourmand honors, and Plate awards, 657 California restaurants received Michelin distinction.
For some, receiving a Michelin star came as a complete surprise.
"We had no idea," said Matthew Kammerer of Harbor House, located in the town of Elk in southern Mendocino County. "It's amazing. We couldn't ask for any other way to end our first year. To spend a year cooking for yourself and what you believe in and then to be recognized for what you believe in, it couldn't be better."
For others, Michelin's expanded coverage led to the realization of a lifelong dream.
"I can't explain how honored I am," an exuberant Niki Nakayama said after her Los Angeles restaurant n/naka received two stars, making her the world's first two-starred female chef of a Japanese restaurant. "For our team to be able to get here is a dream come true."
"A restaurant like ours with 13 women and seven men on the team can only exist in a place like California," she continued. "I've been dreaming about Michelin since we opened n/naka. And for Michelin to bring it all together, it feels like the most inclusive thing in a state where there's so much diversity."
Adding to the inclusiveness theme, Michelin is making its 2019 California guide available online in three languages: English, Spanish, and Mandarin. You can see the complete list of starred restaurants here or in its printed guide, available through major U.S. booksellers on June 6.