By Bo Peabody
The loss of a Michelin star has, at times, created a world of controversy and hurt. Gordon Ramsey compared it to losing a girlfriend and, famously, Bernard Louiseau committed suicide after losing a star at La Cote d’Or.
One of the biggest debates surrounding stars in the New York restaurant community is whether Daniel, the Upper East Side bastion of Daniel Boulud, deserved losing a star (from three to two) in 2014.
Anthony Bourdain called it “bullshit” and Bill Buford called it “irresponsible.” Michael Ellis, the director of Michelin, blamed the loss on “examples of food. . . that wasn’t at a three star level,” an excuse that is as un-transparent and about as intellectually clear as a Rorschach inkblot.
Whether the real reason is a loss in dish quality, or something broader, we’ll never know. It’s possible “the inspectors” had a singular bad meal or were in a bad mood, or were perhaps treated poorly by a server having an off night. By relying on the subjectivity of individual raters and by refusing to divulge its methodology or a deeper rationale, Michelin remains an enigma that does a great disservice to the restaurant industry and the patrons looking to it for guidance. Where is the defensible data available to answer these questions?
Renzell, the new rating system I created last year, has created the first statistically relevant set of structured data to gauge how the top restaurants in New York city perform on a regular basis. Via our members we collect thousands of data points across hundreds of dining experiences at the fifty-three restaurants we cover. We look at the holistic experience of dining out and provide ratings based on a complex algorithm that produces accurate, and transparent, assessments.
Our data shows that Daniel is formidably at the top of its game, not only in line with other three-star New York City restaurants, but well above those with one or two stars. Of the eight attributes we track —cocktails, design, food, hospitality, service, value, vibe, and wine/sake—Daniel is at or near the top in more than half. Its cuisine is extraordinary; it defines the category in service; has few rivals in hospitality and, interestingly, delivers a cocktail program that is superior to many of its peers who talk more about their prowess in this area.
Daniel is a top New York City restaurant, which continues to redefine the scope of high-end New York City dining. It’s loss of a Michelin star is not a loss of stature for Daniel, but rather proof of how deeply antiquated Michelin has become in a world defined by transparency and data.