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Michelin Director Jean-Luc Naret Talks Bib Gourmand

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Early this morning, the 2011 Chicago Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand list was revealed with 46 restaurants that offer good value and good food. There were a number of older restaurants that, frankly, we were surprised to see (hello Bistro 110), and others that didn't appear on the list at all, like Big Star and Hot Doug's.

Other restaurants, like hot spots Girl & The Goat, the Bristol, the Publican and the Purple Pig—not to mention celeb chef Rick Bayless's Frontera Grill—got the Bib Gourmand nod as opposed to the anticipated Michelin star rating. We spoke with Michelin Guide director Jean-Luc Naret from Paris to understand more about the Bib Gourmand selections.

People are surprised that places like Girl & The Goat, the Bristol, the Publican, Purple Pig and Frontera Grill that were suspected of getting stars didn't – how come?
As you read, it really is an award for good value. I know people were expecting stars, but because a chef got a Bib Gourmand doesn't mean he won't get a star. Why we publish the list in advance is because people tend to focus on stars but those only represent five percent [of the Michelin Guide]. The Bib Gourmand is the local favorites that we put on a global spot. When you receive a Bib Gourmand you're part of 2,000 in the world.

I was surprised to see places like Bistro 110, Ann Sather, Frances Deli and La Creperie on the list but not more popular current spots like Big Star and Hot Doug's – why?
I love Big Star and Hot Doug's, but the Bib Gourmand really means ... it's not because it's a new place, but sometimes the Bib Gourmand is a place you forgot about. It could be as good as it was 10 years ago.

And in a pizza-famous city, why did only Spacca Napoli get the Bib Gourmand tag and not a traditional deep dish place?
There's not only one pizza place in the Michelin guide, but only one Bib Gourmand. And there will be places with tacos and hot dogs. What I love about Big Star is that you can go across to the Violet Hour afterwards and sometimes the owners will bring you a Violet Hour drink to Big Star.

Do you find there's much anticipation for the Bib Gourmand list?
That's why we decided to publish the list before before [the guide next week] because people tend to only focus on the stars. The success of the Michelin guide around the world really is about all the other addresses; people aren't buying the guide for just the stars. The're buying the guide for the selection. The brand, the Michelin stars, yes, is recognized worldwide. And people tend to focus on that because it's the top of the brand. The daily success is really about the entire selection.

On a personal note, how does it feel to know this is the last guide you're going to release?
It's not the last one because after Chicago I will do Tokyo, Macao and other cities in Europe, but this is my last baby that's going to be born. Chicago ... yes, it's done with a little bit of sadness. When I started this job I said I would do it three to five years but it's been more than 7 years. I want to move on with my new business after the first of January. I will still keep an eye on the Michelin Guide and consult with them.

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