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Michelin awards first stars to 13 Toronto restaurants

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The Michelin guide has published its first Canadian edition, awarding 13 restaurants in Toronto its coveted stars.

Some 74 restaurants across 27 cuisine types in the country’s largest city received a Michelin nod.

Reaction to the selection has been mixed, with praise for the number of restaurants, but criticism for the lack of diversity among winners.

Vancouver will be the next Canadian city to feature in the Michelin guide.


Around 350 people attended the in-person announcement on Tuesday.

The arrival of the guide in Toronto – first announced in May by Michelin, the city’s mayor, and Canada’s federal minister for tourism – has been celebrated by some as an exciting opportunity that will boost exposure for the city, marking it as a global destination for food and travel.

Most of the restaurants awarded stars are located in Toronto’s city centre and feature tasting menus.

Among the one-star winners are Alo, a modern French restaurant that has consistently been ranked among the best restaurants in the world, and Don Alfonso 1890, once named the best Italian restaurant outside of Italy.

Twelve of the restaurants received one Michelin star, which means “very good in its category”.

One restaurant – Sushi Masaki Saito – won two Michelin stars, meaning it boasts “excellent cooking” that is “worth a detour”.

Its eponymous chef has previously been awarded two Michelin stars for his sushi restaurant in Manhattan, but has since moved to Toronto.

Michelin also awarded 17 restaurants the Bib Gourmand award, which celebrates great food sold at a reasonable price. Others were recognised for their sommeliers, service and cocktail selections.

Among the Bib Gourmand winners are Grey Gardens, run by renowned Toronto restauranteur Jen Agg, and Indian Food Street Company, a small joint inspired by the old coffee shops found in Delhi and Mumbai.

The winners made history as the first to get a Michelin nod in Canada – a coveted honour that has roots to the tyre company’s founding in 1889, but has since become a symbol of success and notoriety globally for the culinary and hospitality industry.

Toronto food blogger Aashim Aggarwal said he did not expect Michelin to recognise more than 70 restaurants across their different award categories.

The selection of star-winning restaurants, however, did not surprise him. “This is a list of largely great spots in my opinion that fit the Michelin mould,” Mr Aggarwal said.

But he said he believes Michelin could have done better in reflecting the diversity of the city’s culinary landscape in its star selections.

Tuesday’s winners on Toronto’s Michelin stage, he said, “were almost entirely men representing western European and Japanese restaurants.”

Since the initial announcement of the guide in May, a debate already familiar to US cities like New York and Los Angeles was ignited in Toronto on whether Michelin would accurately reflect the city’s diverse culinary landscape in its selections.

As Canada’s largest and most multicultural city, food writers have often praised Toronto’s restaurants for offering both cultural and regional diversity in their dishes.

It is also a city that boasts both a lively centre and suburban neighbourhoods, with locally and internationally acclaimed restaurants scattered all around.

Gwendal Poullennec, the international director for the Michelin Guide, told the BBC that Toronto’s “authentic, innovative and collaborative restaurant scene makes it a worthy Michelin destination”.

At Tuesday’s announcement, Mr Poullennac said Michelin’s selections were a good representation of Toronto’s strongest culinary talent.

“It is all about what is on the plate, and these restaurants are considered the best in the destination,” he said.

Mr Poullennac said Michelin inspectors had been eating in the city since the spring. Suburbs in the Greater Toronto Area, like Markham or Richmond, are not included in the guide, but he said it could expand to include those neighbourhoods in the future.

Destination Toronto, the city’s tourism group that partnered with Michelin to bring the guide to the city, said they hope Michelin’s arrival will boost tourism as well as cultivate homegrown talent.

Toronto Mayor John Tory, who attended Tuesday’s announcement, said the Michelin guide is “one more way for [Toronto] to put itself on the map”.

While Toronto has been selected as Canada’s first Michelin destination, the tyre company has announced a guide will soon follow in Vancouver.

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