Macau foodies benefit from gastronomic collaboration between famed Michelin Guide and decorated chefs
Michelin Guide frenzy takes Macau by storms as competition heats up, leaving diners spoit for choice
Macau punches way above its tiny size with a vibrant bar and restaurant scene. The most trusted partner in this gastronomic venture is the Michelin Guide, whose stars are coveted by chefs everywhere. The Michelin frenzy has swept through Macau ever since one of the world’s most decorated chefs, Joël Robuchon, topped the list, and paved the way for the arrival of some illustrious restaurants.
Macau has seen competition among hoteliers become even fiercer in recent years with the arrival of a host of new establishments. Operators are innovating in areas beyond casinos to introduce new attractions, especially dining options. The city is prized by foodies with plenty of celebrity chef outposts and local hidden gems.
Gastronomes are spoilt for choice as hotel outlets tap celebrity chefs in an attempt to distinguish themselves from rivals, organising tasting events and showcases as they vie for Michelin stars.
Each year, the celebrated Michelin Guide publishes lists of the best restaurants in culinary capitals based on its own three-star ranking system, where one star denotes, “High quality cooking, worth a stop”; two,“Excellent cooking, worth a detour”; and three, “Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”.
In the 2017 edition of Michelin Guide Hong Kong, Macau, three restaurants broke into the one-star category for the first time, while two restaurants were accorded two-star status.
One of the newly starred restaurants is contemporary Cantonese restaurant Lai Heen on the 51st floor of The Ritz-Carlton, Macau. Executive sous chef Bill Fu was a member of The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong’s two-star Cantonese restaurant Tin Lung Heen, and he paid tribute to the teamwork as being pivotal in its success.
Mizumi at Wynn Macau rose to a two-star ranking from nowhere. The success of chef-d’oeuvre Tsutomu Shimamiya, master of sushi, and his disciple Hideki Fujikawa, master sushi chef, repaid the faith of Wynn Macau.
Shimamiya insists that the precious Michelin stars still rank below quality ingredients and service, saying: “One of the attractions of Macau is that there are not many limits to what I can bring in to the place. I spent a few years in the United States and there are so many regulations, such as the rice temperature. But here I can do what I do in Japan.” Macau doesn’t impose any customs duty on imported food ingredients either.
In addition to talent recruitment, hotels in Macau also organise events where chefs can display their skills. One such example was the first “Michelin and Robert Parker Wine Advocate Gala Dinner: A Sensorial Gourmet Journey” held by Melco Crown Entertainment. This featured seven leading international chefs.
Kristoffer Luczak, senior vice-president of food and beverage at Melco Crown Entertainment, says: “This gala dinner will go down as a milestone in Macau’s transformation into one of the region’s most exciting food destinations and a world centre of tourism and leisure.”
The International Chef Showcase last year, also organised as part of the Michelin banner, reeled in celebrity American chef Curtis Duffy at City of Dreams’ two-star restaurant Tasting Room.
Duffy’s story in earning three stars for his Chicago restaurant, Grace, was documented in the film For Grace, which captures his passion for cooking.
He says “the energy of the city” and the fact that its people were “open to experiment with new styles of cuisine” brought him to Macau.
The International Chef Showcase also tapped Yoshinori Ishii from the two-star Umu in London to show his hand at Tenmasa in Altira Macau. Ishii says the mix of Chinese and Portuguese traditions captured his interest.“Macau is intriguing as it’s still a very young city and developing in its food culture,” he says. “It has a lot of potential to make a mark in the global food scene, especially with so many top, Michelin-starred restaurants in the city.”
“I am fascinated with Macau’s culinary culture and have been throughout my career,” Ishii adds. “I find the flavours here to be light, acidic and refreshing. Often this can be contrary to a lot of the styles that we find in the US.”
This exchange of ideas benefit the development of local food culture too, Ishii says. “Travelling to other cities and cooking in someone else’s kitchen is definitely challenging, but I enjoy working with new teams and talent whom I can get plenty of inspiration from. It’s mutually beneficial,” he says. “Activities like Michelin Guide Hong Kong, Macau dining series engage top chefs in an exchange with local starred restaurants and talented chefs in Macau. This helps groom the next generation talent for further development of the local culinary scene.”
Duffy expresses an interest in opening a restaurant in Macau. He says: “My business partner Michael and I have talked specifically about opening a restaurant in Macau.”