Star Quality – Julia Farrugia Portelli

Some weeks ago, I had the distinct pleasure to visit the first three Maltese restaurants to be awarded the prestigious Michelin star for gastronomic excellence

and to present them with their official Michelin plaque. De Mondion in Mdina, and Noni
and Under Grain, both located in the capital city Valletta, were the first local recipients of this international recognition. Another three restaurants – Commando in Mellieħa, Rubino in Valletta and Terrone in Marsaxlokk – received the Bib Gourmand title, Michelin’s distinction for good quality and good value cooking. Together with these six outstanding performers, another 20 establishments all over Malta and Gozo made it on to the first ever Michelin Guide for the Maltese Islands, having been awarded the Plate symbol signifying ’fresh ingredients, capably prepared.’

FOR A SMALL COUNTRY LIKE MALTA, OBTAINING 3 MICHELIN STAR AWARDS FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER CAN BE JUSTIFIABLY CONSIDERED TO BE AN ACHIEVEMENT IN ITS OWN RIGHT, AND AN IMPORTANT MILESTONE FOR OUR TOURISM INDUSTRY.

Minister Farrugia Portelli

The first Malta Michelin Guide published earlier this year highlights the outstanding restaurants, breadth of cuisine styles and culinary skills found in Malta, Gozo and Comino. Established in the late 19th century, Michelin has maintained its benchmark of international food for more than 120 years, recognising some of the greatest cuisines in the world. The reason why Michelin is such a respected certification around the world is that its reviews are based on a tried-and-tested methodology. In fact, the Michelin awards are given after a rigorous process in which reviewers and inspectors visit restaurants randomly and dine in as mystery clients.

Indeed, the Maltese gastronomic scene has made significant strides forward in recent years

The reviewers write a thorough memorandum about their experience, and then all reviewers come together to discuss and decide on which restaurants will be awarded the stars. The reviewers concentrate on the quality, mastery of technique, personality of the chef, value of the food and consistency, in making the reviews. The Michelin guide mechanism has been active since the beginning of 1900s and was used in the case of Malta’s restaurant evaluations too.

For a small country like Malta, obtaining 3 Michelin Star awards for the first time ever can
be justifiably considered to be an achievement in its own right, and an important milestone for our tourism industry. It not only reflects the sheer hard work and determination of the respective restaurant chefs and culinary teams toshowcase fine cuisine and an outstanding product in their establishment, but is also testament to the general advancement in quality that our catering sector has made in the past few years.

Indeed, the Maltese gastronomic scene has made significant strides forward in recent years. The culinary offer has grown in choice, in diversity of cuisines, and in standard of service. Part of the credit for this improvement is surely due to the Institute of Tourism Studies, from where scores of chefs and catering professionals graduate each year, following extensive training programmes and hands on experience, including overseas postings. This home- grown talent together with expertise ‘imported’ from overseas to fill local skill gaps and to cater for the demands of a booming tourism sector, contributed in no small measure to these achievements. One hopes that, as more of this training and improvement in skills takes place, quality will continue to increase across the board.

This is in line with Government’s policy to attract a higher quality visitor profile, gradually moving towards tourist segments that have a higher spending power, appreciate fine dining as a holistic experience, that includes ambience and service, as well as the food itself. As we strive to reach higher standards in everything from beaches to infrastructure, from transport to our green credentials, the positive results of our catering sector are a welcome example of what can be achieved.

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