Most people associate Michelin stars with tiny portions, epic wine lists and bills that look more like the Magna Carta than a proof of purchase. Though they might usually be bestowed on some of the glitziest eateries on earth, the Michelin rating system isn’t actually as snobby as it might seem. Over the years, everywhere from everyday brasseries to street food stalls have been recognised by the guide, proving that you don’t have to charge an arm and a leg to be up for an award. This, apparently, has inspired one man to see how far the guide’s proprietors are prepared to think outside the box.
Australian KFC franchisee Sam Edelman has launched a campaign to get his branch of the fried chicken business recognised by Michelin, demanding that they award his restaurant a star. Convinced that the beloved chain is under-appreciated by the upper echelons of the food industry, Edelman has set up an unambiguously named Facebook page, titled “Kentucky Fried Chicken deserves a Michelin Star”. The response has been a mixture of enthusiasm and bemusement.
Whatever your food preferences, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that fried chicken isn’t delicious. But, as disciples of the venerable guide will be aware, there’s more to receiving a star than serving something tasty. The criteria focuses on “quality of the products; mastery of flavour and cooking techniques; the personality of the chef in his cuisine; value for money; and consistency between visits,” according to an article by the BBC. After assessing their experience against this checklist, Michelin inspectors will then decide whether the location deserves one ("very good cooking in its category"), two ("excellent cooking, worth a detour") or three stars ("exceptional cuisine, worthy of a special journey").
On the surface, it might seem that KFC could struggle to tick all these boxes. While it’s hard to argue that the restaurant doesn’t deliver “value for money” and “consistency between visits,” it’s equally difficult to prove that the chain is churning out the sort of food worthy of comments like “mastery of flavour”. However, in an interview with the Metro, Edelman revealed why he believes his spot is worthy of special attention.
For starters, he asserts that his KFC is “the most remote...in the world” - located deep in the outback near Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. He claims that “we have people who come to our KFC from 500km or 1000km away and they will expressly come in with the full intent to buy a bucket of KFC chicken while they are in town,” making it sound more than “worthy of a special journey”.
As if to emphasise this point, Edelman relayed the story of a team of miners who were so determined to get their hands on his chicken that they embarked on an epic 2,500km round trip to secure the goods. As he tells it, “It was [a] AUS$1000 order. They ordered a private hire car to collect the order and take it straight to the airport. They chucked it on the plane and flew it to the gold mine.” Consider the “special journey” criteria well and truly satisfied.
Edelman also revealed that the restaurant uses "fresh chickens that are delivered into the store everyday [sic] and hand breaded in our kitchen by our cooks.” He continued, professing that “there is some skill involved,” before adding, “I think that puts us in a unique position – excellent cooking. If there was only one KFC in the world, regardless of mine or another, it would be regarded as excellent cooking so that’s where I’m going with it.”
Though it’s unclear whether Edelman will ultimately be successful, he believes there is a precedent for his campaign. As he explained to Metro, “There’s a show on Netflix called Street Food. A couple weeks [ago] I watched it and the first episode is about a street vendor in Bangkok who has a Michelin star. Traditionally I’d always thought that the Michelin star was the peak of fine dining, you have to have a fancy wine list and spectacular dining experience. There was a cut away shot that showed a KFC advertisement in there and it kinda gave me the idea.” To purists, this plan might sound horrifying. However, if this interview is anything to go by, there should be little doubting Edelman’s determination.
Despite Edelman’s forceful personality and persuasive arguments, there is at least one major obstacle standing in his path. Namely that, for all his commitment to the cause, Michelin don't actually publish a guide for Australia. This means that there are currently no restaurants in the entire country, regardless of cuisine or provenance, which have been recognised with the accolade. Given the circumstances, it seems that the odds are stacked against KFC becoming one of the first. But, as Edelman’s enthusiasm proves, there’s no harm in making the case.