The Michelin Guide announced its much-anticipated stars for 2019 on Thursday.
Protégé arrived on California Avenue this March with high hopes and expectations to match, with co-owners who hailed from three-star The French Laundry in Yountville. Dennis Kelly was the restaurant's sommelier and Anthony Secviar, a chef. Pastry chef Eddie Lopez also trained under The French Laundry's chef Thomas Keller. The owners created what they hoped would be an approachable yet impressive neighborhood restaurant with a more casual a-la-carte lounge and tasting-menu dining room.
Akaushi short rib at Protégé. Photo by Natalia Nazarova.
"We are floored," Secviar wrote in an email shortly after the stars were announced.
"Having grown up admiring Michelin-starred chefs and working in a number of starred establishments you'd think that from an egotistical perspective I would crave the recognition, but after opening Protégé I can honestly say I’m more happy for the team and the recognition they get from all of their efforts."
In an announcement, Michelin wrote that Protégé "displays a level of finesse to prepare consistently excellent meals, while the dining experience remains casual and approachable." A post on the Instagram account for the anonymous Michelin inspectors lauded a specific dish: "Nothing but technique in this poached hen egg nestled within a pastry dome & surrounded by a moat of Parmesan foam."
Michelin hailed Protégé for "cooking with a suave, edgy panache—reviving such tired players as Alaskan king crab (a seasonal delight here with sweet corn purée and bacon-tinged corn succotash); or beef tenderloin accompanied by buttery potatoes with a sharp horseradish mousseline."
The much sought-after award "goes a long way in validating our efforts and reaffirms our belief that we are on the right track," Secviar said. (Read more about the power of the Michelin star here.)
Protégé is one of five new one-star distinctions in the 2019 Michelin guide and the only one south of San Francisco.
Anthony Secviar, chef and owner of Protégé, puts the finishing touches on a dish. Photo by Natalia Nazarova.
The Michelin guide defines one star as "high quality cooking, worth a stop;" two stars as "excellent cooking, worth a detour;" and three stars as "exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey." The stars are based on five criteria, according to Michelin: quality of ingredients used, mastery of flavor and cooking techniques, the personality of the chef in the cuisine, value for money and consistency between visits.
Other Peninsula restaurants who have won in past years held onto their stars in the 2019 guide, including Protégé’s across-the-street neighbor Baumé, which again won two stars.
Manresa in Los Gatos again earned three stars and Chez TJ, The Village Pub and Madera, single stars. Other South Bay winners include Wakuriya and Sushi Yoshizumi in San Mateo, Rasa in Burlingame and The Plumed Horse in Saratoga (all won one star).
The Bay Area is now home to eight three-Michelin-starred restaurants, the most in the United States. Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the Michelin Guides, described the San Francisco dining scene as "booming at the moment."
View the full list of winners here.