Regarding The Miele Guide 2008

Hi Ivan,

I’m Rebecca from The Straits Times and am writing an article about The Miele Guide for this week.

I’m wondering if you’ve happened to have a look at The Miele Guide yet?

Did you vote for any of the restaurants in there? Also wondering if you thought the results were skewed? — 48 of the restaurants were in Singapore.



I’ve not gotten a copy yet but I’ve looked at the top 20 restaurants and I must say that while I agree with most of the choices, most of the food and service levels of those restaurants are about the same as what I get from most restaurants in Europe as a walk-in.

And I am very sure that using the word “most” 3 times in a sentence is excessive.

Of course, I am more used to the tire maker’s guide criteria than the domestic appliance manufacturer. Having said that, the Miele Guide positions itself as an authoritative and independent guide but that begs the question of independence from whom and authority from where?

The Miele Guide seems to fall between the Michelin and Zagat guides. The Michelin Guide recommendations are exclusively selected by its inspectors while the other side of the spectrum, Zagat guide is more egalitarian or zeitgeist -driven (of course, the raw data from the surveys is then compiled by the Zagat editors). For the Miele Guide, there is a long and rather involved process to determine the final list of restaurants.

Looking at the voting procedure documented online, it also raises a few questions like how many of the 84 judges work in the media and F&B industry where there is strong business pressure to play nice? The fact that they are the gatekeepers, there is an implicit influence on the choice of restaurants positioned at the starting block. This is a powerful influence as it immediately channels opinion to the shortlist.

The quality of the vote from the public is also questioned because the consistency and qualifications of the voters is unknown, i.e. is there a consistent criteria by which they vote? Hence, to me, it is reduced to a popularity contest where the choice can be somewhat arbitrary (contrasted with Zagat where you need to provide a reason or comment for the vote).

This is not to say that people who voted are Philistines, wrong (or misguided?) as I am sure with enough people, a discernible zeitgeist will emerge as good restaurants are hard to keep obscure. Especially when guided by the 84 judges.

The option to allow public voters to nominate restaurants not on the shortlist is illusionary; an escape clause to appease people who complain about the lack of choice. I find that it will take a significant marketing effort (like hiring a PR firm) to get a restaurant on the shortlist. There is no mention of any measure against that, so I would assume that is permissible in the Miele Guide, this is in contrast to the harsh penalty imposed by Zagat on such attempts.

Furthermore, unless you own a Visa card, you are not considered one of the eligible voting public by the Miele Guide. One can easily see where that can skew the choices too.

Contrast this to the Michelin Guide Inspectors who are mostly anonymous, not under business pressure (being in a different industry mostly), have strict guidelines and criteria. There have been accusations of elitism and snobbery, but they too claim to be independent. (Watercooler Question: Do you think the Michelin Guide is independent in its recommendations? Why? Discuss.)

(A brief but insightful description of the Michelin Guide and their inspectors can be found in tragic biography of Bernard Loiseau by Rudolph Chelminski, The Perfectionist: Life and Death in Haute Cuisine.)

What I find disingenuous is the 3rd and final round of the Miele Guide’s voting process where another panel of judges is appointed to vote and the Miele Guide in-house team goes to verify the combined results. The former implies that after all that effort, not all votes are equal and the latter implies that the voters in combined results are not trustworthy.

Of course, my image of verifying vote results usually includes computers and spreadsheets, but I like the Miele Guide’s way of verification at restaurants much better.

My point is that with such a complex voting process and with all these questions unanswered, it does cast doubt on just how independent and authoritative the Miele Guide is.

I must admit that I am may be overly critical (I am a techie) on a new and commendable effort, after all, the Michelin and Zagat Guides took many years to become the authority they are today. I will still purchase the Miele Guide and use the information with my eyes open as I find it hard to read any other way.

Posted on 7th Nov 2008 in Mail


There Are 4 Comments


JENCOOKS commented on November 8, 2008 at 9:59 am

Yes, looking forward to get a copy of the Miele guid this weekend.


Aun commented on November 9, 2008 at 9:46 am

Hi Ivan, I think your evaluation and response to Rebecca’s questions is very articulate and very fair. It is a shame that only two sentences were extracted to run in the published article.

Just to address your comments regarding our final round of evaluations. To determine the Top 20, we visited (incognito and paying our own way) the 25 highest-ranked restaurants from the combined polling results. It was important that a team — made up of full-time MG staff and contributing editors in the cities where these restaurants were based — went and experienced these establishments first hand in order to be able to stand by and confirm their rankings. During these visits, we evaluated ambience, quality of food, inventiveness of food, service, wine and beverage lists, the general buzz (i.e. the crowd), as well as whether the restaurant was value for money. We also conducted all tastings before sitting down and making our final evaluations in order to be able to best compare these restaurants. It is important to also know that we decided early on that during these evaluations, we would not raise any restaurant’s rankings. We would only lower a ranking if the restaurant failed to live up to its reputation or, as compared to its peers, it was not as exceptional as its peers. Thus, the tastings really were meant to confirm the rankings. They did not mean we discarded the results of the polling and made arbitrary decisions. I hope this clarifies the final round.


Ivan commented on November 11, 2008 at 1:02 am

@Aun: Hi! Thank you for your kind comment and clarification. ST tends to do that although I think it is more for brevity than anything else. I can’t find the article online though.

Anyway, your explanation of the rationale behind the final round is crystal. Hope to see more of the Miele Guide in the news. | 2008 In Review commented on January 5, 2011 at 12:29 pm

[…] was finally elected the 44th President of the United States. This overshadowed the launch of the Miele Guide 2008 which received mixed reviews. And after a long wait at the lift lobby, this blog finally ascended […]

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