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Is there a better job in the world than editing the Michelin restaurant guide? We spoke to the current editor, Rebecca Burr, about what it's like to eat out every night, how you get to become an inspector, and eating fresh fruit when you can! Please note, the picture above is not of her - she has to conceal her identity for obvious reasons...
How did you get to be in your position?
I worked as an inspector for 12 years. I always say that the inspectors have a more important job than I do because they're out on the road and they get to hear about places to visit.
How do you become a Michelin reviewer?
The vacancies don't come up too often, I'm afraid! We look for people from a professional background that have years of experience in the catering business – whether that's working in a kitchen, the wine business or hotels.
Do your anonymous inspectors ever get found out?
From time to time. Today's businesses are not looking out for lone diners as much as they used to; dining solo is definitely a done thing nowadays. If we feel that we're known, it doesn't matter because our decisions are never based on one experience.
How many restaurants are reviewed a year?
We've got 2300 restaurants in the guide, which we visit numerous times a year, and 169 of those are starred restaurants.
How many times do you eat out for work in a given week?
On average the inspectors do three weeks on the road, eating out every night and most lunchtimes, and then have a week off. If I'm travelling I'll do the same as them but if I'm in the office it may just be two or three evenings a week. I'm really looking for more women to be involved but most say, 'but how many times do you eat out?' And I'll think, well I do spend a lot of time in the gym!
What do you eat at home?
I eat quite simply; fruit, granola, salad. Anything fresh. I always have good butter, good cheese, and good wine in my fridge, too.
How many reviewers are there?
There are over 130 worldwide, and that number is changing all the time as we've expanded in Japan recently.
How do you compare restaurants when there can be a huge difference in price?
Everything is considered for a star. The compatibility of ingredients, the individual flair, is it pulled off properly, the sourcing of ingredients and then value for money. But value for money can be good in one person's eyes and not in another's. We put the prices in our guide rather than symbols indicating affordability so people can decide for themselves.
What restaurant has held a star for the longest time?
The Waterside in Bray (a Roux brothers restaurant) just celebrated 30 years with three stars. People often talk about 'who's won' or 'who's lost' but it's about remembering the places that have held a star for all these years - getting staff, maintaining the property, managing customer expectations and all their fickle likes and dislikes.
Do you think that Britain is now a go-to venue for top foreign chefs?
There's been a flood of French chefs wanting to come and work in London; they say the diners are more open-minded. It is an exciting country to be in but I'm pleased to see a lot of home names coming through, too. I think the North East is one to watch at the moment as you've got Kenny Atkinson at House of Tides in Newcastle and James Close over at the Raby Hunt near Darlington.