Sternefresser.de: In what time frame did you visit the 109 restaurants?
Andy Hayler: It has been a long journey. I began visiting 3 star restaurants in the late 1980s, and first got around all of them (at the time) in 2004. At that time there were 49 places, all in Europe, and now there are 109, from the bay area near San Francisco to Sapporo.
Sf.de: Which ones were your highlights and why?
A.H.: The very first of these meals, at Jamin when Robuchon was cooking, was a revelation to me, and still is. The consistently top quality was shown nit just at that meal but at numerous subsequent ones there. The best one (out of 27) in 2012 so far has been at Le Calandre, which combines stunning ingredients with faultless cooking, in a style that lets the ingredients speak for themselves rather than confusing the palate.
Sf.de: What was the biggest disappointment and why?
A.H.: There have been a few of these! I found the two meals at Georges Blanc that I tried pleasant but a long way from three stars. In Hong Kong the three stars given to Sung Tung Lok (later demoted) must be one of the low points of Michelin's decision making.
Sf.de: Were there any unusual events during your travels?
A.H.: When I first visited Le Calandre it was quite late when we finished; our taxi did not arrive and one of the staff kindly gave us a lift back!
Sf.de You visited the German top chefs as well. Who is your favorite and how to do classify the German cuisine?
A.H.: I like many of the restaurants in Germany. I love the creativity of Christian Bau and the beautiful, understated cuisine of Helmut Thieltges in particular.
Sf.de: Do you have a favorite nation, after all those visits?
A.H.: I think for value for money, Germany is hard to beat at the three star level. Virtually all the 3 stars in Germany are towards the top of the three star tree in quality, with impeccable technique and fine ingredients, often at half the price of similar restaurants in France. For pure ingredient quality I think that Japan wins out.
Sf.de: In your opinion, are there country differences for *** or is the level homogeneous worldwide?
A.H.: There seems to me a wide range. The restaurants in Germany seem to marked harder than some other countries, for example, while the Hong Kong Michelin guide is frequently baffling. I feel that since Michelin’s expansion beyond Europe, that the 3 star standard has been less consistent than it used to be.
Sf.de: Which chef has impressed you the most (in person)?
A.H.: I am just a diner, so have only met a few of the chefs, and usually quite briefly, Most seem genuinely passionate about what they do.
Sf.de: Have you heard the name Pascal Henry or did you by any chance meet him?
A.H.: I have, and I have met him in New York. We had a drink and some snacks together at Per Se.
Sf.de: What do friends and family say about your "madness"?
A.H.: Probably it is regarded as a harmless eccentricity.
Sf.de: How do you finance your hobby?
A.H.: I am lucky enough to have had a decent career in technology over the years, and this has enabled me to eat widely.
Sf.de: Flocons de Sel in France will be your last visit. Will you start from beginning to refresh your impressions (you have been to 'de Karmeliet' for example in 2002)?
A.H.: That will be the 109th 3 star out of the 109 that exist at the time of writing. I certainly go back to places that I have particularly enjoyed, such as Michel Guerard's Pres de l'Eugenie, but do not necessarily want to go back to all of the places just to tick a box.
Sf.de: Where will you have dinner in order to celebrate the completion of all 109 restaurants?
A.H.: I will have a nice glass of champagne at Flocons de Sel.
Sf.de: Can you roughly say how much money you spent?
A.H.: Most 3 star meals cost around 250 € or so, some are a bit less, some quite a bit more, but that is not a bad average. You can do the maths.