‘A cockroach scampered across the table’: Michelin Guide inspectors recall shocking experiences


It’s certainly food for thought.

Michelin inspectors have revealed how shocking mishaps can even occur in fine-dining restaurants, from cockroaches scampering across tables to being seated at a table of mannequins.

The tales emerged in a blog post on the Michelin Guide website after it asked some of its inspectors for ‘a few of their weird on-the-job moments that made them wonder, “what just happened?”‘ 

Birthday cake for one

One Michelin inspector recalled a solo visit to a restaurant where waiters surprised them with an erroneous birthday cake, leading to much embarrassment. 

One Michelin inspector recalled wanting to ‘sink through the floor’ when the waiter mistakenly brought over a birthday cake, leaving fellow diners thinking the inspector was celebrating alone with a tasting menu

The diner received an especially warm welcome when checking into the establishment, where staff would have been unaware that they were being critiqued.

The diner ‘didn’t think much of the well wishes’ until the birthday-cake dessert arrived, leaving them wanting to ‘sink through the floor’.

‘The restaurant was tiny, and tables turned and raised their glasses,’ they told The Michelin Guide website.

‘I immediately realised that everyone in that room must have thought I was alone on my birthday, celebrating with a tasting menu. I wanted to sink through the floor.’

Side of cockroach

A restaurant demanded that one Michelin inspector pay the full price for their meal, despite a cockroach scurrying across the table when the entrée arrived

A restaurant demanded that one Michelin inspector pay the full price for their meal, despite a cockroach scurrying across the table when the entrée arrived

An undercover Michelin inspector revealed being faced with an unwanted side dish – a cockroach, which scuttled across their table when the first course arrived.

Put off by the debacle, the diner decided to leave and cancelled the rest of their order.

But they said staff were ‘very nonchalant’, arguing that the cockroach must have come in through the door when the inspector arrived. What’s more, the inspector was expected to pay the full price.

‘The worst part was, I was headed to the airport directly from that meal, so I had to endure the entire flight desperate for a shower,’ they added. 

Remote working

An inspector told a twisted tale of being forced to reverse down a narrow mountain road after a rockslide blocked access to the restaurant lined up for an inspection

An inspector told a twisted tale of being forced to reverse down a narrow mountain road after a rockslide blocked access to the restaurant lined up for an inspection

In a twisted tale, a Michelin inspector said they feared ‘falling off the side of a mountain’ in their efforts to find a remote restaurant. 

The would-be diner recalled driving a rented station wagon along a ‘very windy mountainside road with a straight drop and no guard rail’ only to discover after 2.5km (1.5 miles) that their route had been blocked by a rockslide.

With no room to turn around, they were forced to drive back ‘in reverse’. 

‘All I could think about was falling off the side of this mountain, and [people] having no idea where to find me,’ they told The Michelin Guide.

Model diners

An inspector told of being seated with mannequins during lockdown

An inspector told of being seated with mannequins during lockdown

During the pandemic, one restaurant decided to place mannequins at empty tables to keep guests from feeling lonely while sticking to social distancing rules.

The Michelin inspector said they had ‘no objection’ to the creative approach until they were seated at a table alongside two mannequins for companions.

‘Making me sit at a table with them only made me more conspicuous and I felt like the butt of a joke,’ they told The Michelin Guide.

And the embarrassment did not end there. The inspector revealed that he normally orders ‘more than the average, single diner eats’. And the server tried to ‘gently suggest’ that the anonymous inspector had ‘over-ordered’.

‘I gestured to my dining companions and said, “well, this order is for three people.” They did not enjoy my jest,’ the diner added.

The Champagne bath 

One Michelin inspector said they received no apology after being covered in Champagne when the waiter knocked over their flute of fizz

One Michelin inspector said they received no apology after being covered in Champagne when the waiter knocked over their flute of fizz

One Michelin inspector revealed how shocking behaviour from staff even occurs at the very finest restaurants.

They recalled ordering a glass of Champagne at a ‘heralded Three Star’, which the server then knocked onto their lap. 

‘He cursed, stood the glass up, and gave me a new napkin. That was it,’ the diner told The Michelin Guide. 

They described further chaos when ‘nobody refilled the wine, removed the empty flute or even apologised that I would be eating with soaked pants’ for two hours.

‘And yet, I was still impressed by the cooking’, they added. 

The inspector joked how it taught them ‘early on’ in their career how ‘food really is the Michelin Guide’s only criteria’.

Visit The Michelin Guide to read the original version. To find Michelin-recommended hotels and restaurants visit www.viamichelin.co.uk. All illustrations by Cathy Mayer/@cthartica. Visit www.cathymayer.com.



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