Michelin Guide Singapore 2018: Opinion: Should we be bothered?

I have to say that I am quite DISAPPOINTED with this year’s Michelin Guide Singapore 2018 results. In the first year, we cheered the fact that two hawkers were awarded Michelin Stars and some of our local chefs like Candlenut and Cornerhouse managed to get stars. Last year, I applauded Chef Kang for winning a star. This year unfortunately, we don’t have a 3 star restaurant, and of the five new restaurants to be awarded a star, none are being helmed by local chefs and there are no new 2 Michelin star restaurants. Doesn’t it seem to you that our “vibrant” culinary scene is really at a standstill? If by their own definition, 3 Michelin Stars mean “exceptional cuisine that is worth a special journey”, it really means there there isn’t anything exceptional in Singapore that people should want to make a special journey here to eat.

Maybe it doesn’t bother you…. yet.  But I am bothered.  I am bothered because Hong Kong has 6 three Michelin Stars restaurant and we have ZERO.   I am bothered that in Korea, Thailand, Guangzhou and Hong Kong, many of the Michelin Star restaurant feature their own chefs and their own cuisine. Maybe it’s time to be humble and tell ourselves that we are really not up there with the rest.  Maybe it’s time we stop fooling ourselves that we are a gastronomic hub.
Despite the rhetoric that Michelin really wants to focus on our hawker culture this year, I am afraid it all felt like lip service. Sure, there are 17 new stalls added to the Bib Gourmand list. Yet, there are very glaring omissions like Nasi Padang, for example, which is almost non-existent in the guide. The list for local Indian food and Zi Char places is also very weak. They paid tribute to Dragon Phoenix, Guan Hoe Soon, Roland and Loy Kee Chicken Rice for their contribution to Singapore culinary culture yet only Roland was listed in the guide. It is as if to say that these restaurants have historic significance but their food is not good enough to be listed even in the non-bib gourmand list.
I do think that Michelin does give a lot of hardworking chefs and hawkers international recognition for what they do. That is very good. I don’t think we would be happier if there was not Michelin Guide, Singapore. Then we will also be complaining. I think what most Singaporean want is for the inspectors to do a better job at curating the best foods that Singapore can offer. It is excusable in the first two years, but three years should be adequate time for them to come up with list that more accurately reflects the opinions of the general population here.
Click here to listen to my interview with Barathi Jugdesh:  Michelin Guide Singapore.  Is it all a sham:
My interview on Ch 8 Current Affairs Frontline.  I appear in parts 2 and 3.
Pls note that my interview on Frontline was done after the announcement of the Bib Gourmand list and before the Michelin Stars. CNA interview was done after the Michelin star results.  So my thoughts on this whole issue had evolved between the two interviews.

The full list of restaurants in the Michelin Guide can be found at their website:

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Thank You! Dr. Tay! I think you are getting it now. I have been pretty vocal on your website over the years that Singaporeans should NOT care about these Westerners opinions on what is good or not. You guys know where the best places are, not those critics. Furthermore, do not let them turn Hawker culture into some fetishized niche. It is your heritage and culture. [I know as a non-Singaporean, I do not really have any real claim over these areas, but I have visited enough times for extended periods that I think I know a little by now.]

Where do you live, David?

I live in Japan, but I am American.

Haha, all these years, now then I know!

The guide is after all just “a guide” anything with food is bound to brings up lots of argument. As an example, I personally don’t rate Roland at all, and that Dragon Phoenix should get a star.
I agreed with Dr Tay that it’s a disappointment that there’s no local chef helming top restaurant that won any star. Chin Lee’s Eric? He’s a very good and passionate chef! But then, what’s a layman like me to argue about?
Look at HK, there’s plenty of argument here as well. Just right in front of my office is two of HK’s best wanton noodle. Mak Man Kee and Mak’s Noodle. MMK, who makes their own noodles upstairs, for me is the best in HK but they got nothing from Michelin, while Mak’s have it.
And beside these two is the super famous Australian Dairy Co, their breakfast queue can go round the blocks on weekends. And they have never gotten anything from Michelin, ever! But the super long queues formed every morning.
So, as Dr Tay said, it’s better to have a Michelin guide rather than none at all. So at least we got something to argue or write about.

Well said!

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