Coveted MICHELIN restaurant guide expands to Atlanta

Atlanta restaurant Mujo received a MICHELIN Star following the announcement of the Atlanta restaurant guide.
Atlanta restaurant Mujo received a MICHELIN Star following the announcement of the Atlanta restaurant guide.
Andrew Thomas Lee
After moving from New York to open a restaurant, friends and colleagues Aaron Phillips (left) and Ronald Hsu
(right) came to Atlanta. With its name inspired by Hsu’s mother Betty, Lazy Betty, located in Inman Park, opened in 2019 and now has a MICHELIN star. The restaurant’s food is described as global eclectic with an evolving menu, Executive Chef and Co-Owner Phillips said.
After moving from New York to open a restaurant, friends and colleagues Aaron Phillips (left) and Ronald Hsu (right) came to Atlanta. With its name inspired by Hsu’s mother Betty, Lazy Betty, located in Inman Park, opened in 2019 and now has a MICHELIN star. The restaurant’s food is described as global eclectic with an evolving menu, Executive Chef and Co-Owner Phillips said. (Andrew Thomas Lee)

The world-renowned MICHELIN Guide for dining has finally come to Atlanta. During the ceremony, 45 Atlanta restaurants were awarded, with five restaurants receiving a One Star, two receiving a Green Star and 10 receiving a Bib Gourmand. The One Star restaurants, receiving the most impressive award in the guide, were Atlas, Bacchanalia, Hayakawa, Lazy Betty and Mujo.

Midtown parent Marni Ratner said the MICHELIN awards were well-deserved, and she is glad that Atlanta finally has a guide. 

“I think it’s past due, as far as Atlanta being a recognizable city,” Ratner said. “I was surprised when I heard we didn’t have [MICHELIN] yet.”

At Mujo, one of the restaurants in Atlanta awarded a MICHELIN
star, Japanese modern edomae-style sushi is served. To be awarded, Mujo
proved to be a “high-quality cooking restaurant”, per the MICHELIN Guide.
At Mujo, one of the restaurants in Atlanta awarded a MICHELIN star, Japanese modern edomae-style sushi is served. To be awarded, Mujo proved to be a “high-quality cooking restaurant”, per the MICHELIN Guide. (Andrew Thomas Lee)
History of the MICHELIN guide

According to the MICHELIN guide, MICHELIN first started out as a tire company in France in 1889. Brothers Edouard and Andre Michelin founded MICHELIN in hopes of growing France’s automobile industry from only 3,000 cars in the country at the time. One of the main components of the tire company was the MICHELIN travel guide, which provided helpful knowledge about automobiles and tires. The company quickly gained popularity in France and eventually became known worldwide, partly due to their extremely recognizable mascot, the Michelin Man. 

In the 1920s, the tire company expanded its travel guide by including reviews and recommendations of restaurants in Paris, which eventually grew to become the worldwide MICHELIN food guide we know today. The guide was created to recognize the best restaurants in the world through anonymous restaurant inspectors, who rewarded restaurants with “stars.” 

The guide grew rapidly and stretched its reach to all parts of the world. Today, 40,000 restaurants have been included in the guide, and 30 million MICHELIN guides have been sold, highlighting the monumental impact MICHELIN has had on the restaurant industry. 45 Atlanta restaurants joined the global MICHELIN community as they received recognition.

Types of MICHELIN awards

Getting any type of recognition by the MICHELIN Guide is no small feat, as restaurants must meet several criteria. The different kinds of rewards that restaurants can receive, include One Stars, Two Stars, Three Stars, Bib Gourmands and Green Stars. 

While no restaurants in Atlanta were rewarded with a Two Star or a Three Star, five restaurants were recognized with a One Star, a very distinguished award. The MICHELIN Guide describes the criteria a restaurant must meet as, “The quality of the ingredients, the harmony of flavors, the mastery of techniques, the personality of the chef as expressed through their cuisine and, just as importantly, consistency both across the entire menu and over time.”

Restaurants may also be awarded Bib Gourmands and Green Stars. Bib Gourmands are given to restaurants that offer good food at affordable prices. Per the MICHELIN Guide, “All food is easy to eat, not too fancy.” While One Star restaurants often serve food that is very expensive, Bib Gourmand restaurants are recognized for their affordable, excellent dishes. 

The Green Stars are awarded to environmentally sustainable and ethically friendly restaurants. These restaurants have food that is often sourced from local farmers who use environmentally friendly ways of harvest. They also may work to help world issues by donating to charities. 

In Atlanta, Green Stars were awarded to Bacchanalia and The Chastain, two among 26 other awarded restaurants across the country. Green Stars bring appreciation to restaurants that are conscious of their environmental impact, setting a pedestal of environmental consciousness for restaurants around the world to reach for.

Impact on restaurants
MICHELIN Star recipient Lazy Betty does not have a regular menu, but instead offers guests a seven course tasting menu, with add-ons available. (Andrew Thomas Lee)

The MICHELIN Guide leaves a lasting effect on all restaurants that it recognizes as these restaurants gain popularity and appreciation. According to the guide, MICHELIN restaurants often see a rise in customers as the restaurants become globally recognized. 

Executive Chef and Co-owner of one of the MICHELIN Star restaurants Lazy Betty, Aaron Phillips said that gaining the MICHELIN Star felt validating for him and the rest of the restaurant. 

“It feels good to get the recognition and especially feels good for the staff, the Lazy Betty family, who just work so hard there every day,” Phillips said. “To see the joy that it brought to the team was an incredible experience. I can’t imagine anything greater than that.”

In terms of people visiting the restaurant, Phillips said that the hope for those who dine at Lazy Betty is to feel taken care of.

“We don’t have a dress code and there is no white tablecloth,” Phillips said. “We want to serve the best food and the best drinks but we don’t want to appear necessarily stuffy or pretentious. We focus on the quality of the ingredients and flavors, the execution of dishes and impeccable service that is warm and friendly and we want people to not necessarily feel like they need to be driving the boat anymore, we sort of steer for them, and take them on a wild ride.”

Owner and Executive Chef of Michelin-star restaurant Bacchanalia, Anne Quatrano, started the restaurant in 1993 alongside her husband. After 30 years of being open, Quatrano says that the restaurant staff’s hard work has finally paid off. 

“It feels great to be recognized by the MICHELIN Guide,” Quatrano said. “I think we’ve–the restaurant staff and I–have done the hard work for a long time.”

Midtown senior Greyson Forster works as a line cook at XIAN Gourmet House, which was recognized by the Atlanta MICHELIN Guide. Although it did not receive a star, it was recommended by the guide, which has brought a great amount of attention to the restaurant. 

“Getting recognized has been huge,” Forster said. “Revenue has doubled or tripled compared to the weeks before the announcement, and we have been consistently more busy.”

Katy Reese, who works as a general manager at single-starred Mujo, agrees the impact of receiving the award has been huge, and even goes past an increase in revenue.

“The fact that MICHELIN is a worldwide company is so significant,” Reese said. “It’s not just like you get the best reviews on Yelp in your city. Now, you’re amongst the conversation for some of the best restaurants in the entire world.”

Forster feels as though XIAN Gourmet House deserved the recognition and is glad it was mentioned.

“We have a combination of good service, ambience and tasty food that was at a benchmark high enough to get recommended,” Forster said. “Even though we didn’t get a star, it’s nothing to scoff at.”

Phillips said that Lazy Betty has a synergy between the restaurant team and staff that allowed it to receive such high-esteemed recognition. 

“I believe that [the synergy] breeds a sort of essence of character into the building that you can’t necessarily see it, touch it or taste it, but it’s definitely there, and it comes from how everybody works together as a team,” Phillips said. 

Receiving this award showed Forster the public’s appreciation for their restaurant and pushed him to work even harder. 

“We’re really proud,” Forster said. “It’s a recognition of the hard work we put into the restaurant. Now, I come in with a more serious mindset than before, and I pay even better attention to detail.”

Receiving a MICHELIN Star has pushed restaurants like Mujo to continue to execute at a very high level.

“There’s a lot of stress and a lot of expectation to deliver when you’re hosting guests that have such high expectations,” Reese said. “You want to make sure you succeed 100% of the time with a restaurant like this.”

The MICHELIN Guide provides incentives for restaurants to execute at a higher quality and improve their quality of service. Reese agrees and says that after receiving the award, the restaurant is working harder than before. 

“The biggest impact that MICHELIN has is to make every restaurant seek to be better,” Reese said. “We got one star, but now we want to get two stars. The biggest thing is that it will elevate the desire of the Atlanta restaurant community to do better. Our goal is to continue to do what we do, but get a little bit better every day. I want this restaurant to continue to provide a really amazing experience for the guests that dine here.”

Similar to Mujo, Phillips said that getting the MICHELIN star will impact the restaurant community positively as it may attract more talent to Atlanta.

“If we have other chefs coming here [to Atlanta] and culinary students graduating and coming here, it sort of changes the landscape of who we get to work with and what we get to work with in terms of ingredients that come through, and everything becomes elevated due to the MICHELIN Guide being here,” Phillips said. 

While Reese felt receiving a MICHELIN star was a large accomplishment for Mujo, she said that the bigger goal at hand is providing an excellent experience for all customers.

“It’s definitely an honor to be a part of a project that has received such an important accolade, but at the end of the day, that’s not necessarily why we do it,” Reese said. “We do it to create an incredible guest experience.”

The MICHELIN Guide draws attention to high-quality restaurants and the significance of the food industry. Reese agrees the guide has brought awareness to the importance of restaurants in Atlanta.

“I think something interesting about the restaurant industry is that people didn’t necessarily see it as a career,” Reese said. “But it’s a very legitimate industry and there’s a lot of things that are important about restaurants and how they affect your community. They not only feed your community, but it’s like a mini vacation when you go out for a nice meal.”

Similarly, Phillips said that with the MICHELIN Guide reaching Atlanta, the city is gaining its own credibility as an up-and-coming city. 

“It puts Atlanta on the radar internationally to other cities to be taken seriously,” Phillips said. “I think the MICHELIN Guide is definitely another notch in the belt as far as that goes so, congrats to Atlanta.”

Reese said maintaining environmentally friendly habits is something Mujo will strive towards in order to ensure a cleaner future.  

“I would like to focus more on sustainability; I think it’s really important,” Reese said. “I’m really glad that MICHELIN has made sustainability such a focus, and I think that a lot of restaurants can continue to find ways to be more sustainable. As a responsible hospitality group, it’s something that can always be improved on.”

Impact on community
One of the goals of Lazy Betty, a newly-named MICHELIN Star restaurant, is to use fresh ingredients sourced from local farms, Executive Chef and Co-Owner Aaron Phillips said. (Andrew Thomas Lee)

Not only has the MICHELIN Guide affected restaurants, it has also made an impression on the Atlanta community. The guide has provided the people of Atlanta with a better knowledge of exceptional restaurants in the area, pushing people to dine at new and exciting restaurants, Ratner said. 

Ratner loves to try new restaurants around Atlanta and recently ate at MICHELIN Star restaurant Lazy Betty.

“It was surprisingly good because I didn’t know what to expect,” Ratner said. “It was a unique dining experience and the atmosphere was very laid back. It felt very artsy because the presentations in each portion were spectacular.” 

Similarly, Midtown parent Sanders Brightwell has eaten at Bacchanalia many times and was pleased to see that it received a star.

“It’s one of the best restaurants around the country,” Brightwell said. “They take their time, plan out what goes into a dish and how they space out a meal. It’s not just about the food, but the experience on top of it. They know how to set the pace for a meal and how to make dining an experience.” 

Midtown senior Olivia Allen ate at the now MICHELIN star restaurant Atlas before it was given the award. She appreciated the ambience of Atlas, which likely contributed to the success of the restaurant when being evaluated by the guide.  

“I was really excited to go, and when I got there, it was literally one of the prettiest restaurants I’ve ever been in,” Allen said. “[Atlas] does such a really good job making going to the restaurant such a full experience and making its environment really nice.”

The MICHELIN Guide has provided people with much better options when eating out. Allen said she could tell the difference from the quality of other restaurants and how they compare to Atlas. 

“Going to Atlas, or any other MICHELIN star restaurant, is kind of a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Allen said. “You get really dressed up and get ready to go out, and you’ll think about it for the next couple of months.”

Brightwell wishes to expand his dining experiences and feels more inclined to visit the restaurants that were recognized. 

“I will definitely seek the restaurants out more,” Brightwell said. “As the guide says, they are ‘worth the drive,’ so I’ll be sure to try more.”

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