Chef Toba “lost 300 million yen” and suicides and court cases over stars… The Unknown World of “Michelin and Business | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Chef Toba “lost 300 million yen” and suicides and court cases over stars… The Unknown World of “Michelin and Business

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Michelin star chefs make so much money.

The chef who is in the news every day is Shusaku Toba. It is hard to find a chef whose name appears in so many media outlets every day. The articles vary in content, and in the interview with the Weekly Bunshun that started the affair, 90% of his 40 or so clients had their contracts terminated, He said that he had lost about 300 million yen. In the interview with Shukan Bunshun, which was the beginning of the incident, he stated that 90% of the 40 or so clients had their contracts terminated and that they lost about 300 million yen. Many people were surprised at the size of this sum, and I have been asked myself if Michelin star chefs make that much money.

In May ’22, Shusaku Toba appeared at Advertising Week, one of the world’s largest marketing and communications events, held at Tokyo Midtown. According to Hakuhodo’s web, the theme was “Food and Creative Possibilities” (PHOTO: AFRO).

The Michelin Guide Tokyo 2023 of the “Michelin Guide Tokyo 2023” is 422 restaurants. 422 restaurants listed in the guide.

The Michelin Guide rates restaurants as follows: three stars for “outstanding cuisine that is worth the trip for its own sake,” two stars for “excellent cuisine that is worth the detour,” one star for “outstanding cuisine that is worth a visit if you are in the neighborhood,” and Bib Gourmand for “cuisine that provides satisfaction beyond its price. The criteria for the survey are the same worldwide.

The criteria for the survey are the same worldwide. Regardless of the category of cuisine, the survey is strictly based on “quality of ingredients,” “high level of cooking techniques,” “perfection of seasoning,” “originality,” and “consistency of the overall dish that is always stable. The investigators make a reservation, dine at the restaurant, and pay the fee, just like regular customers, without revealing that they are conducting a survey. The decision on whether or not to include a restaurant in the Michelin Guide and its star rating is made by a council of several surveyors, the editor-in-chief, and the person in overall charge of the guidebook, thus establishing a fair and impartial system.

The Michelin Guide Tokyo 2023 lists a total of 422 restaurants, of which only 51 are starred French restaurants. Considering that there are more than 100,000 restaurants in Tokyo, it is clear that only a handful of restaurants have been honored. In the highly competitive restaurant industry, having a star can greatly differentiate you from other restaurants. It is no exaggeration to say that every French chef aspires to a Michelin Guide star.

From that day on, your life will change…. The photo shows the 2023 Michelin Guide award ceremony held in his home country of France. Georgiana Vieux, a self-taught chef from the West African country of Benin, whose dream was to go to France to become an interpreter, received a “star”!

Anticipating demotion from three stars, he killed himself with a gun…

In France, there is also an incident involving a star. Bernard Loiseau of “La Côte d’Or,” famous for its “water cuisine” that eschews butter and cream, shot himself in 2003 in anticipation of being demoted from three stars. However, he retained his three stars in the Michelin Guide published later. Marc Vera of La Maison des Bois, a famous restaurant in the Alps, sued the Michelin Guide in ’19 when it demoted him from three to two stars. He demanded disclosure of the review report and compensation, but the case was dismissed in court.

Bernard Loiseau purchased the restaurant “La Côte d’Or” in Burgundy, France, which had fallen into decline after being stripped of all Michelin stars, and successfully revived it. He then ventured into the world of business, including the development of boutiques, and in 1998 became the first chef to be listed on the Paris Stock Exchange.

Because it is not an award or competition, there is no reward for a restaurant when it is listed in the Michelin Guide. However, winning a star makes all the difference in the world.

The big thing is attracting customers. A Michelin star in the Michelin Guide is seen as a guarantee of taste, which attracts more customers. When a restaurant is announced as a star in the Michelin Guide, reservations start pouring in from the moment it is announced, and it suddenly becomes difficult to make a reservation. Since the restaurant is recognized as a first-class restaurant, it becomes easier to raise the price. Many restaurants raise their prices when they are awarded a star, partly to further improve their quality. As sales increase and profits become more profitable, they can expand to other restaurants or relocate to better locations.

They also have an advantage when it comes to purchasing. They can purchase better food and drinks at lower prices. Wholesalers of food and wine are eager to have starred restaurants stock their products because it is good for their business. The same goes for tableware and fixtures.

In the world of gastronomy, the focus is on the chef, who is expected to have talent as well as ability and background. If you have a star, you are called a Michelin-starred chef, and you get more media exposure. If a chef is seen by many people, he or she becomes an object of admiration, and it is easier to recruit good people. Young chefs want to be hired and work in starred restaurants because where they were trained is important.

Side hustles” include menu development, consulting contracts, YouTube… and royalty business

As a chef’s name grows, “side hustles” come along. You can become an owner-chef with most of your expenses paid by your patrons, produce restaurants, develop menus, do consulting, teach at cooking schools, become an ambassador, and so on. The amount of money for each of these jobs varies, but for example, menu development can range from tens of thousands of yen for a few recipes, to hundreds of thousands of yen or more per month for a consulting contract, and in some cases, a few percent of sales are continuously transferred to the restaurant for producing.

If you distribute your videos on YouTube and increase the number of views, you can make money here as well. If you belong to an office and shift to a talent, you can also make money from media exposure, since you are no longer in the cultural worker bracket, which pays only a few tens of thousands of yen.

The biggest revenue and the one we would like to eventually reach is the royalty business. If we can attract franchise businesses and develop their products and stores, we can get a steady profit with almost no risk. At this point, he is more than a chef; he is an accomplished businessman.

The “Michelin Guide Tokyo 2008,” published in 2007 for the first time outside of Europe and the United States, listed 150 restaurants, including 8 three-star, 25 two-star, and 117 one-star restaurants. The French restaurant “sio” owned and chef Shusaku Toba has been awarded one star for three consecutive years since the 2020 edition.

Expanding the business too much, a negative spiral…

It is only as a Michelin-starred chef that you can find a tasty sideline. If you lose your star, your bright future will disappear. If you expand your business too much and spend less effort and money on your core business, it won’t take long for the quality to drop. As a result, if the stars fall from the sky, the side business will quickly deteriorate. The less profitable the side business becomes, the less money can be spent on the core business, making it even more difficult to regain the star.

It is this negative cycle that makes it almost impossible to recover once a star is lost or downgraded. Once you make money on the side, you must put that money firmly into your own restaurant and maintain your star. He does not need the star because he wants the money; he needs the money because he wants the star. The stars will continue to shine above the heads of chefs who think this way.

  • Written by Dong Long

    Born in Taiwan in 1976. Winner of TV Tokyo's "TV Champion" in 2002 and 2007. Loves cooking, sweets, and alcohol, with a focus on fine dining and hotel gourmet cuisine. He writes easy-to-understand articles with his unique perspective on everything from inflammatory incidents to gastronomy and trends, and from the state of food to issues facing restaurants. He is also a judge, lecturer, producer, and consultant.

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