Food & Drink

Why did Michelin expand in California? Great food – and $600,000

California’s food scene has shaped the national conversation since at least the 1971 birth of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, and restaurants in America’s produce hub rose to the occasion as the farm-to-fork movement arose in the Sacramento area.

That all helped Michelin decide to expand its Bay Area guide statewide last week, with focuses on Sacramento, Los Angeles, Monterey, San Diego and Santa Barbara. So, too, did a payment of more than half a million dollars.

In an email to restaurant insider blog Family Meal, Visit California CEO/President Caroline Beteta said the Sacramento-based statewide tourism agency will contribute $600,000 to pay for costs Michelin critics incur while doing their first-year reviews.

“Visit California is investing $600,000 as part of its ongoing culinary program to underwrite the hard costs of expanding the presence of Michelin inspectors throughout the state,” Beteta told Family Meal.

Visit California never received an estimate of what Michelin’s total statewide expenses in making the guide might be, Beteta said. Nor did Michelin offer an estimated economic impact from the guide, which is scheduled to be released in early June.

In an email to The Sacramento Bee, Beteta said the payment would have no bearing on which restaurants where selected.

“The Michelin Guide is approaching the assessment of California restaurants the way it has in other locations around the world for decades – with unrivaled integrity, independence and expertise,” Beteta wrote. “The partnership does not allow Visit California any say in which restaurants will be assessed or what the outcomes of the assessments will be.”

Recent guide publications, including those in Hong Kong and Bangkok, have been subsidized by the area’s tourism agencies. The Korea Tourism Organization reportedly pays $350,000 annually for the guide’s presence in Seoul, while it took $4.4 million over five years to secure a guide for the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

Visit California’s funding comes through state assessments on tourism- and travel-related businesses. The organization has a $126 million budget, according to its website.

Visit Sacramento CEO/president Mike Testa first approached Michelin about expanding to the capital region years ago, and eventually recruited Visit California to build out a statewide guide. A launch event at Golden 1 Center and after-party at Ella Dining Room & Bar cost Visit Sacramento approximately $50,000, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

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