Andy Hayler is the only man in the world to have eaten in all three Michelin star restaurants. He first completed this feat in 2004 and then did it again in 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 and this year.
He has been reviewing restaurants on his website since 1994 making it one of the oldest in the world and the site is updated with several new reviews each week.
Eating in all three Michelin star restaurants has become more complicated given that the number of such restaurants has increased from 49 in 2004 to 113 this year.
While Andy does not like to term any one restaurant as the best he particularly likes the cooking at Michel Guerard’s restaurant Pres des Eugenie in France because he likes that style of food, but there are many other fine restaurants that are objectively up there on a par. Other particular favourites include Schloss Berg in Germany, Le Calandre in Italy, Hotel de Ville in Switzerland and Mizai in Kyoto.
He believes there are a number of two star restaurants that are better than many three star places and mentions Sa Qua Na in Honfleur, Les Crayeres in Reims and Guy Lassausaie in Lyon.
Here is our interview with Andy.
You have eaten in all three Michelin star restaurants in 2004 and then did it again in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014 and also now. How do you manage this particularly now that Michelin has gone global and there are many more stared restaurants in the world than ever before?
Well, it certainly means a lot more travel now that Michelin is no longer just in Europe but is spread from San Francisco to Kyoto. In 2004 there were just 49 three stars, all in Europe, and now there are 113 spread around the world. It is a moving target, with new additions and deletions every year.
How do you plan it? Do you combine food travel with business travel? How long do you book in advance?
I sometimes can combine a trip I am doing anyway with a restaurant but in other cases I make a separate trip. The definition of a three star is “worth a special journey” and sometimes that is what is needed.
Have there been places which have been extremely difficult to get in to?
This often happens with the top places. You might expect issues in big cities like New York but some of the trickiest places to book are in Japan. Some have very lengthy advanced booking, while others there are extremely popular and favour regular customers over new ones, making it quite awkward at times. Forward planning is really the only way to deal with this.
What evolution in terms of fine dining have you seen since you started this journey in 2004?
One difference has been the migration towards tasting menus compared to regular a la carte menus. This makes things easier for restaurants but is not always what a diner wants. I am seeing a recent backlash here, with a few places scrapping their tasting menus and moving back to a la carte. Another trend has been the greater globalisation of cooking. A dish or new ingredient appearing in a restaurant now will rapidly be replicated on the other side of the world due to the Internet. For example, it is clear that Japan is having more of an influence on food elsewhere now that was the case a decade ago.
What do you look for in a restaurant experience of this level?
The same as anyone else really. In terms of food I look for good ingredients, nice presentation, technical skill in the cooking and for the combination of flavours to be in balance and make sense. I do not score the service as this can be rather a personal thing, but of course this is a significant part of the overall restaurant experience.
What’s your view on Michelin, World’s 50 Best and other top restaurant guides? Are they still relevant in today’s world?
Of course there are many guides and blogs now, from Michelin through to Tripadvisor. I think the difference between guides like Michelin and Internet reviews is the degree of rigour and authority involved. I have more faith in a Michelin rating than a Tripadvisor review, for example. It is good for the consumer that there is a choice, and many places now have coverage that did not used to get any, but consumers need to understand that quality and quantity are two different things.
Do you think they will still be relevant in 10 years time?
I think that there will always be a place for authoritative reviews, whether of restaurants or movies or plays. The problem is that the economics of producing a high quality independent guide mean that it is expensive to do well.
As you yourself said on Twitter, you cannot pinpoint the best restaurant you have eaten in though you have listed one you have enjoyed the most? Have there been any restaurants or in particular dishes which have stood out and which you have never seen replicated again?
There are many fine places and memorable dishes. I particularly like the cooking at Michel Guerard’s restaurant Pres des Eugenie in France because I like that style of food, but there are many other fine restaurants that are objectively up there on a par. Particular favourites include Schloss Berg in Germany, Le Calandre in Italy, Hotel de Ville in Switzerland and Mizai in Kyoto.
Given the world has gone global (and so has to a certain extent food), do you still notice considerable regional differences in the food being served in different parts of the world at this level?
It varies, and certainly some food trends quickly spread around the world. However areas with distinct local or regional cooking tend to stick to their roots more than some of the big city restaurants. It would be a great shame if food became homogenous, and fortunately there is little danger of that.
You are probably the only person who can judge the quality of a three Michelin star restaurant. What in your view makes a very good two Michelin star restaurant make the grade to three stars?
There is no science to restaurant assessment, so the truth is that there is a very fine line between a high class two star restaurant and a lowly three star. To be honest there are some two star restaurants that I think are better than many three star places eg Sa Qua Na in Honfleur, Les Crayeres in Reims and Guy Lassausaie in Lyon. For me a true three star should have at least one “wow” dish that makes you wonder how it is made, a dish that could barely be improved upon. Three star places generally reach this pinnacle more often than two stars.
Have you considered writing a book about this unique experience?
I am open to offers from publishers!
How have you seen the scene evolved. There are so many influencers, bloggers, ‘restaurant critics’ today it is difficult to separate the real good ones from the ‘noise’. Has this impacted your website in any way?
Although there are many sources now, few restaurant blogs actually have much longevity, often lasting a couple of years and then fizzling out. My site was set up in 1994 and is updated with several new reviews weekly, which as far as I know makes it the oldest in the world. It still gets thousands of readers per day.
What would be your advice for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps? Where do they start and how do they go about it?
Well, you need quite a lot of spare time and planning, as well as some money. It is not something to be undertaken lightly. Ask yourself why you really want to do this other than just ticking boxes.
Having eaten in all 3 Michelin star restaurants in the world, you must be an intimidating guest to have. What is your idea of an enjoyable meal at home?
I actually enjoy simple things at home, like a curry or a good salad. I am not fond of pre-packaged meals, and would rather have cheese on toast than a “ready meal”. However something simple like a good cheese with fresh bread and a nice glass of wine is a great pleasure in itself.