When you’re trying to figure out what to eat, it’s completely natural to tap your upper lip, gaze off into space, and say, “I wonder what a company that manufactures high-performance tires would recommend?” But who are you going to ask? Firestone?! Please. And Goodyear gave Guy Fieri’s Tex Wasabi restaurant five whole stars. Serious gourmands who also demand superior rolling resistance and gripping power on slick roads have always relied on Michelin for braking, handling, and reliable starred restaurant reviews. Lutz Hachmeister’s 2010 film Three Stars documents nine restaurants in seven countries, all of which boast three stars in the Michelin Guide, and examines what that rating means to diners and how it influences chefs and owners in the evolution of their businesses. Do you become more adventurous? Or maintain the status quo for which you were cited in the guide? The film captures the thin membrane separating the theatricality with which patrons are treated in the dining rooms from the chaos, noise, and impressive culinary heroics in the kitchens. Unlike reality shows such as your Kitchen Nightmares, Three Stars maintains narrative distance from its subjects, who are actually documented, rather than encouraged toward professional histrionics. So kitchen outbursts tend to be terse barks, like those of pilots keeping a shaky craft steady, rather than showy tantrums. But Hachmeister’s understatement results in a narrative plateau somewhere in the last third of the film, and viewers who showed up hungry may become impatient.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 19, 2012