Billy Wagner of Nobelhart & Schmutzig in Berlin is provocative. He doesn’t shy away from admitting it. In his restaurant, you are asked to not use your phone to take photos, message or whatever.
So when he calls the Michelin intransparent that is an understatement but he goes further. He says that when it comes to sustainability, lack of transparency needs to end. He goes to call the green leaf unsustainable saying it promotes marketing rather than action.
In an Instagram post, Billy Wagner said he was proud but also annoyed to have been given a Green leaf together with another 18 restaurants in Germany.
“I am annoyed because the Michelin sustainability emblem is intransparent, misleading and not sustainable. I am quite aware that calling Michelin intransparent is like calling me provocative. It is a given. We all know that’s Michelin works in mysterious ways. Inspectors are anonymous. They taste our food, our service like any other guest. That is the Michelin guide and for lack of transparency may be ok. When lack of transparency is not ok is when we talk about sustainability.”
He asked Michelin how they knew that Nobelhart and Schmutzig was really sustainable. “Sure, i talk a lot about regional food, about working closely with small farms, about old chicken breeds, foraging and seasonal greens. I am glad you heard that but is talk enough to be certified as sustainable. What about the restaurants that are sustainable but the chefs or owners that are not as loud as I am. How do you know whether we are not producing tonnes of food waste? How do you know we are not powering our restaurant with the cheapest, dirtiest CO2 blasting energy plant. Are you really sure I am not just a big mouth.”
Billy asked if Michelin had checked and asked whether they were sure that they were not awarding them for green nice marketing.
He added that a dining experience could be rated by professional inspectors but for sustainability they needed to look beyond the hype and check facts. “For the real sustainability emblem you need to look behind the scenes not just in the restaurant but also in the supply chain. We have spent a lot of time thinking about sustainability. It is a very complex thing with many many factors to consider. We have learnt a lot, we have shared a lot but we still continue to learn about it.”
He said sustainability was about the smallest details. “I feel we got this nice little green leaf not for our real effort but for our marketing.”
Billy ended his plea by saying Michelin should not promote sustainability by rewarding appearance or green wash marketing or by using it as a tool for their own marketing. “Your little green leaf is unsustainable. Because sustainability is where the lack of transparency should end. I invite you to join us during the day, to talk to us, to really feel and understand what we are doing and see what problems we are facing and what we have achieved.”
This is not the first time that Michelin has faced criticism about their green award. The first to call them out was Christian Puglisi who said there was one word for this award and it was green washing.