How Sonoma’s Bib Gourmand restaurants maintain their Michelin ratings

08 / 2023 | by: Sonoma News

Just a few weeks ago, Michelin announced its Bib Gourmand ratings for 2023, and four Sonoma Valley restaurants held onto their distinguished titles.


Folktable, El Molino Central, Valley Bar + Bottle Shop and Glen Ellen Star have maintained their Bib Gourmand ratings from last year; an award that can take a restaurant’s reputation to the next level.


Michelin’s Bib Gourmand rating is different from its star ratings; stars are given to restaurants that fit into the fine-dining genre of eateries, but the Bib Gourmand rating is bestowed upon places where Michelin believes the customer will get the best bang for their buck.


The rating signal’s the “best value for money restaurants — offering a three course meal at a reasonable price,” according to Michelin’s website.


According to Casey Thompson, former “Top Chef” contestant and executive chef of Folktable, there’s pressure to maintain a Michelin rating once it’s received.


“For me, it has upped our game in a sense that, we want to maintain — I certainly don’t ever not want to receive it again because that would feel not so great,” she said.


Thompson said after this year’s awards were announced she and the chefs of the other Michelin-rated restaurants in Sonoma were in-touch with one-another, exchanging congratulations and asking if they’ve received their plaques yet.


The first time Folktable, located inside Cornerstone Sonoma, received its Bib Gourmand rating in 2021, it had only been open one year, and Thompson wasn’t expecting it.


“I go to the restaurant and I’m like ‘guys, we got a Michelin Bib Gourmand,’” Thompson said. “It really just gave us hope.”


Because Folktable opened in the midst of the pandemic, the restaurant only had experience with to-go orders. Thompson was focused on surviving that first year, and putting out creative and quality food.


“I was hopeful, but I as a chef am not shooting for the stars,” Thompson said. “It was the cherry on top. It was really beautiful to have been recognized, but it wasn’t my mission.”


The next year Folktable received the award, it felt to Thompson like the restaurant had proved itself.


“There’s a lot of pressure once you reach a certain status to maintain it,” Thompson said.


Consistency is of the utmost importance when it comes to Michelin ratings because judges visit anonymously and more than once. Standards must be maintained at all times.


Thompson has the luxury of an on-site farm at Cornerstone that grows produce according to her menu. They’re currently working on raising their own cattle for harvest as well.


“Holy truly this is the first restaurant that I’ve really been able to be me,” Thompson said.


Thompson has worked at a number of fine-dining restaurants, including a stint under celebrity chef Dean Fearing at Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, one of Texas’ most revered dining destinations.


However, Folktable is the first place she earned a Michelin rating as the leader of the kitchen.


“Especially people that are coming to Wine Country for an experience, I think a lot of them do try to hit all of the Michelins,” Thompson said. “It does make a difference — we’re in really good company with the other restaurants.”

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