Czech chefs petition government to pay for Michelin Guide fees

In an open letter, luminaries from the food industry argue that the guide highlights outstanding restaurants while promoting Czech food culture.

Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas

Written by Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas Published on 06.07.2023 11:00:00 (updated on 06.07.2023) Reading time: 3 minutes

Prominent members of the Czech Republic's food and tourism industries as well as the general public are calling for the Czech government to approve payment of the Michelin Guide contribution for the year 2023.

In an open letter addressed to the government and issued on July 4, renowned Czech chefs emphasized the need for recognition and support of Czech gastronomy and requested that Prime Minister Petr Fiala and other members of the government appeal to the Minister for Regional Development Ivan Bartoš to pay the fee or have it paid by the Czech Tourism Office.

The initiative aims to collect at least 10,000 signatures to accompany the letter, which will be submitted to the Office of the Government on Sunday, July 9, reports the Visit Chef website.

The Michelin Guide has real potential to bring tourists to the regions, increase the number of overnight stays, and reach creditworthy tourists who will spend not only on restaurants from the Michelin Guide but also on other goods and services or accommodations. The Michelin Guide will raise the prestige of the Czech Republic and contribute to dispelling the awareness that the Czech Republic is only a country of cheap alcohol.

-From the culinary community's letter to Prime Minister Petr Fiala

The public's call for Czechia's Michelin Guide inclusion comes after a perceived lack of action from the Minister for Regional Development, Ivan Bartoš, who reportedly had relevant documents regarding the guide sitting on his desk for weeks. The delays and indecision have prompted frustration among the culinary community, which believes that the Czech Republic's gastronomic achievements warrant recognition and support.

The letter and its signatories argue that the Michelin Guide not only highlights outstanding restaurants but also promotes Czech gastronomy as an integral part of the country's culture.

"We are an economically and gastronomically advanced country, and that's how we should be viewed," Jan Knedla, chef of Papilio restaurant, told Visit Chef. "Food, or rather gastronomy, is part of our culture, and it should be supported."

The push for the Michelin Guide in the Czech Republic reflects the belief that the country's culinary scene deserves international recognition. Michelin stars are seen as a symbol of excellence in the culinary world and can significantly boost a restaurant's reputation and tourism appeal.

Chef and restaurateur Zdeněk Pohlreich told Visit Chef that the gastronomy sector's significant contribution to the state budget further strengthens the argument for government support.

"This whole matter is beyond debate. I disagree with those who say a Michelin Guide for the Czech Republic is useless. People should realize that gastronomy is a full-fledged field that was created and is based on private money... We are part of the local culture and history, and if money can be given for church repairs or film festivals, it should go to this guide. The contribution of gastronomy to the state budget is huge every day."

The Czech Republic currently has two restaurants with one Michelin star, the Field restaurant, and La Degustation Bohême Bourgeoise, and five establishments with the Bib Gourmand award. In addition, the guide in Prague recommends twenty other businesses, but it has not yet expanded outside of Prague.

The payment for inclusion would amount to CZK 10 million in three years, Seznam Zprávy reported in January. 

Those who want to support the cause can currently sign the petition on the Visit Chef website or at Prague restaurants Vallmo, Divinis, Next Door by Imperial, Café Imperial, Víčep Korunní, U Matěje, Sia Restaurant, and Červený jelen.

Michelin changed the concept of its guide last year and only rates restaurants in countries whose national tourism agencies contribute. The ministry stated in March that it would decide on the issue, but no decision was ever made.

Prague restaurant Allegro in the Four Seasons Hotel was awarded a Michelin star 15 years ago as the first gastronomic establishment in post-communist countries. In 2021, Prague restaurants Field and La Degustation Bohême Bourgeois defended their stars. Last year, Michelin did not issue a recommendation for the Czech Republic.

Regardless of the outcome, the petition signals a determination to raise the profile of Czech gastronomy and secure its rightful place in the global culinary landscape.

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