Restaurants & Bars | March 3, 2020 1:30 pm

Michelin’s New Sustainability Awards Draw Criticism

A recipient of the award is leading the charge

Restaurant front door in Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen's Relae is at the center of criticism over Michelin's new sustainability guidelines.
Heather Cowper/Creative Commons

Last month, Michelin announced that it would be giving awards for sustainability initiatives in addition to their existing system of recommendations. That sounds promising — if you can have delicious food that’s also made via ethically and environmentally friendly means, what’s not to like? But Michelin’s new initiative is drawing criticism, and leading the charge is one of the recipients of that new award.

At Eater, Caleb Pershan reports that Christian Puglisi, executive chef of Copenhagen’s Relae, has criticized the new designation. Puglisi argues that Michelin’s methodology is flawed — essentially, that they did not verify restaurants’ descriptions of their own sustainability work.

As Pershan writes, “… Puglisi, a Noma alum, is frustrated because Michelin made no attempt to independently verify anything about Relae’s sustainability efforts, he says. They just called up the restaurant and asked for a quote.” It’s not hard to see why this could be a problem; that sounds like a system that’s incredibly easy to game.

In a long post on Relae’s website, Puglisi explored the issues he has with the new designation at length.

For most of my colleagues, I know as little about their sustainable practices as the Michelin guide does, but I know for a fact that 3 of us are certified organic while 8 are not. I know I have colleagues on that list that I respect greatly for the work they do and the responsibility they take. Work and responsibility that needs much more than a phone call to understand and acknowledge.

As Eater notes, this isn’t the first time Puglisi has expressed frustration with the Michelin awards. But his comments here resonate deeply, and raise the question of whether — like sustainability itself — the new Michelin designation requires a little more work.

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