“We don’t do what we do for Michelin approval,” says Etheliya Hananova, sommelier and co-owner, with her husband, chef Noam Gedalof, of Comice, a postage-stamp-size fine-dining restaurant in a quiet corner of the 16th Arrondissement. All the same, Le Guide Michelin, the little red book that rules French dining with the same iron fist that Mao’s Little Red Book ruled China, approves. Since 1900, the guide has set restaurant-dining standards in France, and even in today’s expertise-trashing climate, it still holds enormous sway. In September of 2017, on the eighth day of Comice’s opening, as the launch team of seven was practically vacuuming up the last of the construction dust, Michael Ellis, then Le Guide Michelin’s global director, strolled in for lunch. “I hadn’t had weeks and weeks to test recipes at that point,” Gedalof recalls. “I had a sous-chef I liked working with, and we just got going. We didn’t know it was Ellis when he came in, but we were so new, there wouldn’t have been anything extra special we could have done for him anyway.”
Even if Michelin is very secretive about the guide, everyone knows that they begin sending out inspectors in the fall. Still, it was surprising they’d send one eight days after an opening. But Comice is about 15 minutes away by cab from Le Guide Michelin’s corporate offices in Boulogne-Billancourt, and maybe they just wanted to check out this buzzy little place from the Canadian couple who escaped Le Sergent Recruteur. (Michelin will never tell.) Four months later, Ellis contacted Hananova and Gedalof with the news that they were getting a star.