UAE: Hiding job from loved ones, travelling for 3,000km a year; super-secret lives of Michelin inspectors, revealed

They undergo field training for between one and three years to completely understand the process and standards


Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Wed 24 May 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 24 May 2023, 10:09 PM

Eating lunches and dinners outside, travelling thousands of kilometres, and being super-secretive about their career: this is what it entails to become a Michelin inspector. As 14 restaurants in Dubai have joined the iconic list of Michelin-starred restaurants, Khaleej Times looks behind the scenes at the lives of the people who make it all happen - the inspectors.

“They have to have a professional background working for the industry,” revealed Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the Michelin Guide, while speaking to media in Dubai via video conferencing. “They need to undergo on the field training for between one to three years to completely understand the Michelin process and standards.”

With the Michelin guide expanding to several countries all over the world, Gwendal said that the team strength has increased over the last few years, but there are no assigned inspectors for any regions. “The same people who taste the food in Dubai will eat at other parts of the world so that they can compare the food in different parts,” he said. Currently Michelin guide serves 40 destinations.

According to Gwendal, the inspectors are taught to be receptive to all kinds of tastes and cuisines. “We have a team of over 20 nationalities and they have a very open mind,” said Gwendal. “They are taught to embrace all the different food styles.”

Michelin Guide inspectors base their ratings on the universally applied set of five criteria, including the quality of the ingredients, the mastery of cooking, the harmony of flavours, the personality of the chef and the consistency both over time and across the entire menu. They visit every restaurant like a regular guest and pay their bills in full. They never come back to the same restaurant twice.

Life as a Michelin inspector

It was also revealed that the inspectors live a super-secret life, often not even revealing to their nearest ones what they do for a living. One of them has said that if questioned about what he does, he claims to be a musician. He also said that the job was extremely demanding. He claimed that he was on the go from 8.30am till 11pm, and that each year he travels more than 3000 kilometres, sleeping in 160 hotels. He eats 250 meals at 600 places and writes 11,000 reports.

Another inspector explained how her job requires her to adapt to any kind of situation and try anything and everything. For her, eyesight and smell add to the taste, and it is important to pay attention to every tiny detail. The job has equipped her with a sixth sense that allows her to embrace everything around her. For her, everything adds flavour to the food, even objects such as bouquets.

A third inspector shared about growing up with her grandfather who had a restaurant. He taught her how to cook and told her how much he enjoyed watching people enjoy his food. He also told her how cooked his food sitting because his customers received his food while sitting. His enthusiasm and the happiness in the waiters’ eyes on serving good food made her become an inspector.


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