47 Michelin Stars in 24 Days – The Final List

[edit 2: the original math, and post of this title, changed quite a bit during the planning of the trip. The final tally ended at 45 Michelin stars. edit 1: someone dropped out of Fat Duck, we are in. 44 stars has now turned into 47.]

My friend is crazier than I when it comes to food. When he secured a reservation at the elusive El Bulli in Spain, we found ourselves planning a trip across France and Spain. After a few months of waiting, and email planning, the plan has materialized.

The goal of the trip is not to put notches on the belt (literally nor figuratively); instead, it’s to (generally) experience the most forward-thinking restaurants out there. It will also be a spectacular introduction to Europe for me.

What are the cutting-edge chefs doing? Some are challenging the very concept of food (El Bulli, Mugaritz); others are challenging the notion of traditional flavor pairings (Gagnaire, Tom Aikens); and others want to serve you the absolute perfect specimen (Les Ambassadeurs, L’Ambrosia.)

Most of this is food you can’t find in America. There are chemistry derivatives like Alinea or Moto; flavor pairing mad geniuses like Bastide & WD-50; and every restaurant in the Bay Area thinks it’s serving you the best specimens (they’re not); but all of these restaurants look to their European brethren. so it’s time to sample the source.

The Final List:

1. L’Astrance ** – a parisian up & comer – looking for the perfect ingredients – a jr L’Arpege. Reviews: Gastroville, OA

2. Alain Ducasse *** – harmony and symmetry, the old guard, but a necessary wine stop. Reviews: Gastroville, OA

3. L’Arpege *** – in search of the perfect vegetable. Reviews: OA, TastingMenu

4. Gagnaire *** – grand scale experimentation. Reviews: OA

5. Les Ambassadeurs *** – master of precision and ingredients. Reviews: Gastroville, Chez Pim

6. Lameloise ** – a traditional escape. Reviews: Hans Zbinden

7. Beau Rivage * – all about the wine.

8. Regis Marcon *** – an ingredient master in the countryside.

9. Pic ** – females can cook too, lighter w/ some nods to asian cuisine. Reviews: Patricia Wells

10. Troisgros *** – master of spices. Reviews: Gastroville, OA

11. Jacques Decoret * – mad scientist in the countryside. Reviews: OA

12. Bras *** – Reviews: OA

13. Can Roca ** – the ‘other’ acknowledged master of experimentation w/ a focus on preserving the original ingredients. Reviews: Gastroville

14. El Bulli *** – the master of chemistry & experimentation. Reviews: Gastroville, OA, Chez Pim Photos

15. Zuberoa * – caught between modernity & tradition. Reviews: Gastroville

16. Murgaritz ** – master of infusions & broths but still performs in a lab instead of a kitchen. Reviews: OA

17. Arzak *** – the guy that gave El Bulli his crazy ideas. Reviews: NY Times

18. Tom Aikens * – testing taste combinations. Reviews: OA, The Independent

19. Bhatia * – one-star indian in london.

The only restaurant we did not get is Fat Duck. Some consider Fat Duck the slightly more down-to-earth version of El Bulli; others a slightly more accessible version of Gagnaire; most deem it one of the top 5 most important restaurants of our time. We are on the waiting list – someone drop out.

The blog will be updated with each meal as internet access permits.

- chuck