The wheels are turning for Israel’s restaurant scene as France’s prestigious restaurant guide, Gault & Millau, arrives to explore the vastness of our local restaurant scene. Since its first guide, published in 1972, it has grown to be one of the most prominent guides in the world, now available in 18 languages. We sat down with Kevin Sellem, Gault & Millau’s General Manager in Israel, to see what it is about Israel that made it the next top choice for this publication.
What made you decide to go for the Israeli market?
Gault & Millau is an essential guide in France. It’s a diverse guide to the best restaurants run by the most talented chefs. A lot of Israeli restaurants are opening in France and across the world, showcasing so many talented chefs and really showing how the Israeli scene is blossoming. It’s a fascinating culture – we had to explore it.
What are the criteria that you look for in restaurants?
So many things are taken into consideration when we award our point system, from gastronomic excellence, which takes up 70% of the score and is solely about the food, to the service, originality, value for money, ambiance, and so on which covers the remaining 30%. We look for a high quality of products and local produce. Even if the genre is not local – such as Thai, or something Asian – we want to see the use of local products. It’s a French mark of approval.
Is there a change you want to happen in the Israeli restaurant scene?
Our motive is that people will discover – and revel – in the beauty of the local cuisine here. The reviews are positive, and we choose to focus on the positive. We don’t showcase places that don’t live up to our standards.
How long did you evaluate the restaurants?
It takes us about 11 months for each edition: each restaurant was visited two or three times, at least.
What did you discover about Israeli cuisine?
Israeli cuisine is enormously influenced by many cuisines, combining many classic techniques from French cooking and other cuisines. The history of Israel has a strong influence as well. Putting all of this together produces high standards and very colorful cuisine.
Where will you begin distributing the books?
We will be in bookshops locally and internationally. The book is written in four languages: English, French, Russian, and Hebrew. The idea is to connect populations with the diversity found here, so the book will be distributed worldwide. We want people all over France and Europe to know where to eat. We want to honor the chefs, too.
How will you honor the chefs?
In each book, there will be winning chefs in 10 different categories, from top chef entrepreneurs to young talents and best service. They are all honored at a huge awards gala as well as in the books themselves.
What do you think we should know?
The restaurants’ ratings are based on international standards, so if a restaurant holds a standard in Israel, it will be equivalent to the standard in Australia or any other country.
How many restaurants are featured? Are only the best chefs the ones that will make the cut?
Two hundred and fifteen restaurants were tested anonymously, of which 142 will be featured. No, some will not make it this time around, but will make it in the future. There will be more editions. As the food industry grows, there will be updates.