Michelin guide launches in Toronto for the first time in Canada

The Michelin guide, the exclusive star rating system only handed to the most esteemed culinary establishments in the world, is finally coming to Canada.

The guidebook for Toronto was inaugurated at the Four Seasons Hotel by Mayor John Tory along with two Michelin-star studded chefs, Daniel Boulud and Alvin Leung, on Tuesday.

“It's something that has been a longtime coming,” Tory said. “With the rebirth of the city and following the pandemic, I think it's something that is really to be celebrated and of course, it does mark a celebration of our food and cuisine ecosystem here.”

The announcement is the answer to a question that has lingered in the country’s culinary scene – why does Canada have no Michelin star restaurants? The answer: there was no guide. Until now.

In the coming months, inspectors will be anonymously indulging and evaluating Toronto dining ahead of the city’s first round of stars set to be revealed in the fall.

The idea behind the guidebook dates back to 1889 when the Michelin brothers founded their still-standing tire company and created a little red guide for travellers to take on their journeys.

Fast forward 30 years, the guide’s restaurant section gained attraction and the brothers selected what they called “mystery diners” to visit and review restaurants. That element of secrecy still stands.

While acquiring a star immediately elevates the status of a restaurant, setting it in the world-class ranks sought out by tourists and locals willing to pay top dollar, the ranking system has also been criticized for its elitist perception of what is considered star-status.

The relationship between tourism boards and the Michelin guide has also been under question in recent years after reports surfaced of Michelin accepting US$600,000 from Tourism Australia to host a World’s 50 Best Restaurants in Melbourne along with US$1.8 million from South Korea’s tourism department to create a Seoul guide.

Yet, few industries have taken a harder blow by the pandemic than the tourism and restaurant sectors. With the glow of a Michelin star, both Toronto’s culinary and travel industries could receive newfound attention in a time of need.