When the chef Caroline Glover heard in June that Michelin would be publishing a restaurant guide to Colorado, she was thrilled at first.
“I’ve seen Michelin move across the country, but never thought Colorado would be next,” said Ms. Glover, who co-owns the restaurant Annette, in Aurora.
One of the state’s culinary leaders, she was named best chef in the Mountain region last year by the James Beard Foundation.
Her restaurant is a fixture on best-of-Denver lists.
Colorado’s stars will be revealed on September 12th at a gala event in Denver, and speculation has been frenzied.
But one thing is certain: No Michelin inspector has inspected Ms. Glover’s restaurant, and she will not be getting any stars.
That’s because Annette is about 500 feet past the city limit that divides Denver and Aurora.
And while the Denver tourism board paid Michelin to be included, its counterpart in Aurora did not.
The Michelin Guide, owned by the French tire manufacturer, is the world’s most widely recognized authority on fine dining.
Its stars have fueled the dreams of generations of chefs, and are always the first thing mentioned about restaurants that have them.
In recent years, with competition from the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list and other awards, the company has been aggressively seeking new ways to generate revenue, expand its geographic reach and modernize the idea of what makes a Michelin restaurant.
In interviews, dozens of restaurateurs, chefs and officials across the country said the status the stars confer is priceless, and comes with vast earning potential.
But they also voiced reservations about Michelin’s priorities and influence.
Curiosity has always swirled around how the company does its work:
Who are the inspectors? How often do they visit? What does it take to rise from two stars to three?
Now, more sweeping questions are arising about what the guides mean in today’s culinary world.
Does the quest for stars generate excellence, or sameness?
Do deals with the tourism industry and food brands suggest that Michelin’s attention and the prestige it confers are at least partly for sale?
And can the stars keep their luster as Michelin selectively expands its universe?
Gwendal Poullenec, the director of the guides, said in an interview that although the company accepts “partnership” money to offset the expenses of the review process, the decision about whether a region merits its own Michelin guide is determined solely by the company’s inspectors, who “assess the maturity” of the culinary scene as a preliminary step.
Mr. Poullenec said that “vibrancy” and “dynamic potential” are also taken into consideration, as an explanation of why rapidly growing Florida and Colorado — and Atlanta, coming next year — have guides, while New Orleans and New England do not.
A Michelin announcement about its Colorado guide last month declared, “Our anonymous Inspectors combed the Centennial State for the most delicious spots,” but in fact, only restaurants in Denver, Boulder, Aspen, Vail, Snowmass and Beaver Creek were being considered.