We were excited when we were invited to see the new film, “Three Stars,” a documentary that showcases 10 of the world’s Michelin three-star chefs.* Also featured is Jean-Luc Naret, director of the Guide Michelin, founded in 1900. He provides insights into the rating system and the economic and personal benefits of earning that third star—with the chefs commenting on the pressure it brings to keep it, and other travails.
The highest Michelin rating, three stars, means “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.” It gives a restaurant and its chef world prominence, as foodies around the globe trek long distances to experience the cuisine.
To those who have followed the stars over the years, one insight provided by Mr. Naret is that now, the ratings are all about the food. In prior years, a restaurant had to be beautifully appointed in order to get the coveted third star. Today, the focus is “what’s on the plate.” Ishikawa in Tokyo is as plain as any traditionally-designed sushi restaurant, and Noma in Copenhagen—rated the world’s best restaurant by Restaurant magazine†—looks like a café in Vermont.
The 10 chefs featured in “Three Stars” include:
Yannick Alléno of Le Meurice in Paris
Sven Elverfeld of Aqua in Wolfsburg, Germany
Sergio Herman of Oud Sluis in Sluis, The Netherlands
Hideki Ishikawa of Ishikawa in Tokyo
Noma restaurant has no photos on its website. Want to see the food? You won’t get a satisfying glimpse in “Three Stars.” You’ll have to buy the cookbook. Photo by Ditte Isager ourtesy Phaidon Press.
Juan Mari Arzak and Elena Arzak of Arzak in San Sebastian, Spain
René Redzepi of Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark
Olivier Roellinger of Le Coquillage in Cancale, France (in 2009, Roellinger closed his three-star haute cuisine restaurant, Les Maisons de Bricourt, to focus on the seafood of Brittany at Le Coquillage—more casual cuisine but equally acclaimed [currently 1 Michelin star])
Nadia Santini of Dal Pescatore in Runate, Italy
Jean-Georges Vongerichten of Jean-Georges in New York City
The work of German filmmaker Lutz Hachmeister (the original title is “Drei Sterne—Die Köche und die Sterne, “Three Stars—The Cook and the Stars”), the film is 94 minutes well spent for lovers of haute cuisine. It’s a rare trip behind the scenes, and the opportunity to spend face time—at least on film—with the great chefs.
There are some quirks. We found the extensive cross-cutting, jumping from topic to topic, to be distracting (we’d like to add some title cards). But truly disappointing is that there’s only about a minute of screen time given to showing the food!
The director focuses on searches for the finest ingredients, kitchen preparation and some dining room scenes, along with the chefs as talking heads.
Strangely, when the director has the opportunity to focus on the beautiful plates of food that result from their chefs’ philosophies and labors, he quickly shifts focus—in two disappointing instances, spending time on the face of the pretty server, while the plates of food she serves get short shrift (or no shrift). It’s a real flaw in the film, and makes us wonder why Herr Hachmeister chose to spend his time documenting three-star chefs.
So, while the film doesn’t merit three stars, it’s still a tasty treat for all who love exquisite cuisine and want to know more about those who produce it.
See our list of food films.
*The 2012 edition of the Guide Michelin features 109 three-stars, up from 96 in 2012.
†The World’s 50 Best Restaurants is a list produced by the British magazine Restaurant. The voters include consumer gourmets, international chefs, restaurant critics and restaurateurs.