Michelin Guide Questioned for Omitting Israel

The Michelin Guide 2016 is pictured in Paris. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)
The Michelin Guide 2016 is pictured in Paris. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder has asked the Michelin travel guide company to evaluate Israeli restaurants with its famous rating system, implying that the decision to omit the country may be political.

In a letter to the Michelin Guide, Lauder said it is a “concerning omission” that Michelin does not have a guide to Israel. Citing the country’s “distinctive and exceptional culinary scene,” he asked: “Why, therefore, has your company refused to produce a guide to Israel’s restaurants?”

“Though I am sure that it is not your intention, some have speculated that reasons other than merit color Michelin’s decision not to visit Israel,” Lauder added. The letter was obtained by The Associated Press.

In Paris, Michelin Guide spokeswoman Samuelle Dorol said there has never been a Michelin Guide to Israel and there are no current plans for one, citing commercial reasons.

“We have not had the opportunity to do a guide there,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean we will never have one.”

In general, she said, Michelin Guide locations are chosen based on “gastronomic interest” and sales potential. “You have to have potential readers.”

Michelin currently has guides for 27 countries and many city-specific guides. Among recent additions is a guide to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, where no restaurants have earned even a single star from the three-star rating system.

But Michelin launched there anyway because of the potential for gastronomic development. “We sensed that something was happening in these cities,” Dorol said.