The Michelin Guide has been in Singapore for two years now but from what we know, there still aren’t any local inspectors. We catch up with American Heather Soto to get her tips on how you can be the first and what to expect if you do end up landing the coveted role.
How did you get the job to become a Michelin inspector?
I trained in baking and pastry arts at the Culinary Institute of America and worked in restaurants for several years. Then, I earned an MBA in International Hospitality Management from ESSEC Business School in France and Cornell University in New York (a jointly administered MBA degree from both schools). While living in France, I used the Michelin Guides frequently and decided that I wanted to be an inspector. I emailed persistently to secure an interview in the US, just as the initial team of US inspectors was being formed.
Other than tasting food, what are some other aspects of the job people might not know about?
I was not only anonymous to restaurants and chefs, but my own friends and family did not know that I was a Michelin inspector. It really is like living as a spy.
How did you ensure your anonymity during your time as an inspector?
I used many techniques to remain anonymous and untraceable. I cannot divulge details in order to protect my former colleagues who are still undercover.
Now that you've come out as an inspector, how have people in the industry responded?
The response has been very positive. Chefs are surprised that I was an inspector because I don't look like what they imagined an inspector would look like. They also have expressed appreciation that I am a professionally-trained chef and have worked in kitchens – I understand their world firsthand.
You’ve eaten at over 5,000 restaurants during your career. Which ones still stand out in your memory and why?
The ones that stand out were either exceptionally unique in their deliciousness or exceptional disasters. Surprisingly, I really do remember the vast majority of the meals I have had over the years. It seems like my memories focus on food experiences and flavour profiles.
What’s your favourite thing to eat in Singapore? Any specific stalls and dishes?
I love ondeh ondeh and pandan flavoured desserts. I also like to visit several hawker centres such as Chinatown Complex, Maxwell Food Centre and more for laksa, char kway teow and chicken rice.
For the first time in Asia, Heather Soto is conducting a baking masterclass in collaboration with Homebakee that teaches Singapore bakers how to create star-worthy desserts. Sign up for the for the class here.