Jean-Luc Naret, Founder of the famed Michelin Guide to Luxury Dining
No one knows luxury better than a man who has worked in the business for 20 years. Jean-Luc Naret – formerly of luxury hotels such as Residence on Mauritius, The Palace of the Lost City in South Africa, and Sandy Lane in Barbados – now holds the reins at Michelin Guide, the definitive guide for the most lavish hotels and restaurants in the world. Now in its 100th year, Michelin Guide is more prolific than ever, crossing continents and reviewing the most famous restaurants in Europe, the US, and Asia. In an exclusive interview, Jean-Luc Naret discusses the infamous guide and his ideas on what’s hot in global dining.
You worked closely with your Michelin Guide predecessor Derek Brown. What did you learn from him?
He was great. I learned a lot. I was the first person ever brought in from the outside to work as the director. It was a six month transition and training period with exams.
How do you think your style in the luxury business differs from others’?
I am always trying to keep the guide moving and evolving. Keeping it relevant for different audiences whether they are young or old. We have the new iPhone application – this application has been downloaded by lots of young people. It’s a new guide for a new generation. We are now branching out to other cities. New territories attract new customers. We’re in our 100th edition. In Europe we have a strong presence, strong clientele. When we went to New York, we sold 120,000 books in the first visit.
The new guide launched 3 years ago “Les Bonnes Petites Tables,” which is the selection of the Bib Gourmand restaurants (restaurants offering very good value for money). This guide exists in France and in the Benelux (Belgium, Luxemburg and Netherlands) and is surely to be developed in other countries.
How did your experience in luxury hospitality lead you to Michelin Guide?
I had been working in luxury for 20 years. When [The Michelin Guide] first approached me to work for them, I asked ‘Are you sure?’ The institution was very impressive and mysterious. We were perceived as very valuable at that time, but no interviews were granted, things were different. It was time to expand. It’s not by chance we’re still #1 after 100 years.
How do you select which restaurants to feature?
Inspectors are assigned to travel to specific regions, ie: Europe. In six to seven years, we never visit the same place twice. Inspectors visit anonymously, see new rooms, restaurants. This is the job of the inspector on a daily basis around the world. They visit once or twice, they dine, pay the bill, write the report and at the end of the year they decide which places will be chosen.