California Now Podcast: Michelin Guide, Central Coast Road Trip, LGBTQ Travel

Meet an anonymous Michelin inspector and learn how he helped anoint 90 California restaurants with coveted stars

In an unprecedented move, California Now Podcast host Soterios Johnson does not introduce listeners to one of his guests during this episode. That’s because Johnson’s first interview is with a Michelin inspector—an anonymous restaurant critic who goes undercover to determine which establishments receive one, two, or three stars. It’s a fascinating look behind the scenes at a revered restaurant establishment, and the timing couldn’t be better since Michelin recently released its 2019 California Michelin Guide, the first statewide collection of restaurant reviews in its long history. Our guest—we call him “Mr. Inspector”—shares all sorts of insights about what it takes to make the grade, and why California is such a dynamic dining destination.

Food is a focal point for his second guest, too. Aida Mollenkamp, the host of Food Network’s Ask Aida and the editorial director of Salt & Wind Travel, leads listeners on a Central Coast road trip that begins in Los Angeles, stops in Ventura and Santa Barbara, and ends in Paso Robles. Along the way she points out the best places to grab strawberries, oysters, Pinot Noir, tri-tip, and much more.

The episode also includes an insightful conversation about LGBTQ travel in California. Scott Gatz, the CEO and founder of the travel site Gay Cities, discusses the Golden State’s long history as a welcoming destination. He and Johnson talk about some of California’s most popular gay-friendly cities—including the Castro in San Francisco, West Hollywood, and Palm Springs—as well as some lesser-known locales.