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Tampa restaurants prepare for Michelin inspections that could transform them

Michelin will soon begin rating restaurants across Florida in its prestigious, world-renowned guide
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Posted at 7:17 AM, Nov 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-17 07:46:31-05

TAMPA, Fla. — The ever-changing menu offered at Rooster & the Till in Seminole Heights is an expression of Ferrell Alvarez’s culinary background, and the artistic plates dished out Wednesday through Saturday are meant to be inviting to all customers — whether they arrive in a full suit or jeans.

“I want people to feel alive. I want people to feel inspired. I want people to feel welcomed,” said Alvarez, who co-founded the restaurant with a friend almost eight years ago. “I think it’s very food-driven.”

The restaurant’s offerings are products and passions of Alvarez's team, a team that could soon be under a new, bright spotlight.

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Weeks ago, Michelin Guide announced it’s coming to Florida to rate restaurants in Orlando, Miami, and Tampa, after forming a partnership with VISIT FLORIDA and the respective tourism bureaus in the three cities. The Florida expansion will represent just the fifth region Michelin Guide serves across the United States, after New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and California.

Michelin, known as a manufacturer of tires, has also published a guide for almost a century that rates great restaurants. To be rated with a Michelin Star is an honor that can cement a restaurant’s reputation and send new customers through the doors.

“Michelin Guide, I think, is one of the top two pinnacles of being rated as a restaurant,” said Alvarez. “It’s extremely valuable to a company to be recognized by Michelin. You know they only represent a few cities and or states in America. So, the introduction of that into Florida should be taken pretty seriously.”

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“It’s a huge deal,” adds Jessica Stollenmaier, the blogger behind the popular Instagram page, Tampa Food Girl.

Stollenmaier believes Michelin has the power to transform Tampa’s food scene.

“I was actually traveling for food experiences. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be alone, but the growth of my account and so many other food accounts I think are proof that people are willing to travel for food experiences,” she said.

Visit Tampa Bay agrees, and a spokesperson says the new partnership with Michelin should be a big tourism boost, since, according to the tourism bureau, “extensive research shows that visitors spend the most in the food and beverage sector during their trip to Tampa Bay, as much as 30% of total spending.”

“Given Michelin’s influence to inspire travelers to seek out dining experiences that are worth a journey, we feel this partnership is ideal as Florida continues to emerge as a leading culinary destination,” wrote Stephanie Rodriguez with Visit Tampa Bay.

Some, however, have questioned if the Michelin Guide service is worth the money tourism groups like Visit Tampa Bay are paying for the partnership to bring it here, a cost that has not been fully revealed to the public.

At this point, Alvarez can’t say.

“I think time will answer that question, you know,” he said.

He believes the value of Michelin will ultimately depend on how long it remains in the Florida market and how committed it is to Florida’s restaurant scene.

Despite those doubts and questions, Alvarez can say what a Michelin Star would mean to a Tampa restaurant.

“Being recognized by Michelin changes the revenue stream instantly,” he said. “I definitely — I would love for us to be recognized by Michelin, you know. I think that the opportunity to change the company and to say that it was recognized by Michelin is a fantastic thing. Although I will not put my people through the rigorous mental torment that some people do because they solely want to focus on obtaining these awards.”

According to Visit Tampa Bay, the inspection process is currently underway, and ratings will be released in 2022. A more official timeline will be released at a later date.