Juliane Caspar: A female Martian

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Reviewed on 10/2/2011 | No Reviews

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Meet the woman in charge of Michelin guides

She is German, she is a woman and she is the editor in chief of the French Michelin guide. A miracle? Looks like it. When Juliane Caspar, 40, was appointed head of the French gastronomic bible two years ago, it was, for French gourmets, hard news to digest.

A woman in this position in a country that counts only one female chef decorated with three Michelin stars? Indeed, high gastronomy is not what you would call a woman’s domain and this is, unfortunately,  true  not only in France. And then, would you believe it? Juliane Caspar is German, although not a Kraut, supposedly. The famous French food critic, François Simon, put it in a nutshell: “A young German woman (at the top of Michelin) will certainly be more interesting than just another old French man.”

A surprising choice

The choice, let’s face it, was more than surprising. One German newspaper wrote that this appointment was akin to Mercedes “calmly announcing that it has appointed a female Martian to head its development division”. A couple of days ago, I was lucky enough to interview this kind of alien for a German magazine in the brand new headquarters of Michelin in Boulogne-Billancourt, only to find out that Juliane Caspar is a friendly, sober, highly professional person.  And given her winning ways I completely understood that her team was more than pleased when she became the new boss.

A teamworker

“After all, the Guide Michelin”, Mrs. Caspar pointed out, “has always been the product of a team and this will not change”. In other words: she’s the boss, but imagine her more as a manager motivating and reconciling different people and making them internalize the Michelin criteria.

You will not find any photos of Juliane Caspar showing her face. She is not the kind of woman who enjoys the limelight. On the contrary, she needs anonymity to do her job due to the fact that she has never stopped inspecting restaurants even since she has become the boss. She rides her bike to her offices: “Half an hour, twice a day, is already one hour of sport”, she points out with a laugh, showing that she will not be taken for Gerard Depardieu in a few years but that she really intends to keep in shape despite her work.

A dream career

But why did she make it to the top? Is it all about German seriousness and reliability? Not alone, she replied. She simply knows what she’s doing. She started at the bottom, working for many years as a waitress in high gastronomy not only in Germany, but also in England, France, Italy, South Africa and that, of course, she is fluent in the according languages.

Mrs. Caspar started as a Michelin inspector in 2002. Two years later she was already the head of the German edition. After a further  two years she supervised the German, Swiss and Austrian edition. Four years later she was appointed head of the worldwide guides.

Reliable reviews for the readers

I bet, Mrs. Caspar doesn’t shed a tear when she has to confiscate a star. She is too straight and too clear minded to waste her time with false sympathy and sentiments. “We focus on our readers”, she says. “And our readers want reliable reviews.”

Juliane Caspar  lives in the 15th arrondissement and she still enjoys the choice of restaurants, markets and small groceries, butchers, cheese shops in Paris. And her favourite restaurant? Well, she wouldn’t tell it. She loves the diversity of Paris, different styles of cooking and cuisine from different regions. But when you squeeze her really hard it appears that there is one Bistro in her neighbourhood that is kind of a canteen to her. They say you can often see her in Le Bélisaire. To be continued…

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