Chef Kelly McCown reading the Michelin Guide entry for The Kitchen for the first time.

Updated Oct. 8, 2020

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses to close, The Kitchen, with its appeal of having a unique in-person experience, shut down and did not open for takeout orders, as so many other restaurants were able to. Now that Sacramento County is open for limited dine-in service, The Kitchen is bringing back its Michelin-Star service beginning Wednesday, Oct. 14, according to social posts and The Sacramento Bee.

The Kitchen brought home a Michelin Star in a first for Sacramento as the restaurant ratings giant introduced a California-wide dining guide June 3.

"It lends a little credibility to the work that a lot of people have been doing for a long time," said The Kitchen Executive Chef Kelly McCown "One tide raises all ships. I'm exceptionally happy that I could bring this back. I haven't necessarily gotten this star for myself as much as I have gotten it for the Sacramento culinary scene."

Chef Randall Selland, his wife, Chef Nancy Zimmer, and their children Josh Nelson and Tamera Baker opened The Kitchen 28 years ago to offer a unique experience that is both a meal and a party over the course of four hours. But don’t worry — there’s an intermission where diners get up, walk around and sample hors d’oeuvres. The experience and high quality of ingredients combined with the creativity of the dishes and, of course, beverages, has long seen The Kitchen remain one of the toughest reservations to secure in California’s capital.

"Sacramento...they do not take themselves too seriously," McCown said. "There is an ease to the hospitality here that I don't see in other cities, and then you couple that with the amazing proximity to all this product, and you find something you just don't find in other places."

A Michelin Star is the most recent award for a restaurant that has received a AAA Five Diamond Award for the past five years as well as the highest Zagat ratings, recognition as a semi-finalist for the Outstanding Restaurant award from James Beard and many more.

McCown is no stranger to working at a Michelin-starred restaurant, having previously worked under the tutelage of Chef Scott Carsberg at Lampreia in Seattle and at San Francisco’s La Folie as well as Fleur de Lys.

"Getting the star," McCown said, "that meant that we were good yesterday. We will continue to move forward and continue to take care of the guests every night, and that's what's most important to us."

McCown came to Selland Family Restaurants in 2009 to head Ella Dining Room and Bar for two years before heading to Napa and finally finding himself back in Sacramento to oversee the entire food operation of The Kitchen. 

In addition to the star for The Kitchen, Sacramento restaurants Canon, Frank Fat’s and Mother earned Bib Gourmands. A third category – l'Assiete Michelin, or Michelin Plate – was awarded to 10 other Sacramento restaurants: Allora, Bacon & Butter, Binchoyaki, Ella Dining Room and Bar, Grange Restaurant and Bar, Localis, Tequila Museo Myahuel, Ming Dynasty, Mulvaney's B&L and Zócalo.

"We're incredibly proud of Kelly McCown and the team at The Kitchen for this well-deserved recognition," said Mike Testa, President and CEO of Visit Sacramento. "This is a pivotal moment for Sacramento's culinary community and for our future as a food destination. Our region's restaurants are truly some of the best in the Golden State, and now with Michelin's endorsement, we're excited to see what's next in the evolution of Sacramento as America's Farm-to-Fork Capital."

Recognition from Michelin comes as Sacramento’s stature as a dining destination continues to grow behind the embracing of the city’s being named America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital in 2012.

All three designations are judged on the same five criteria by Michelin, and while earning a one-, two- or three-star rating is the ultimate honor for a restaurant, the Bib Gourmands and Michelin Plates signal an exceptional eatery — and often spur a hunger to strive for the next level.

For the Bib Gourmand, Michelin required that the restaurant not only meet its strict standards on quality, but provide two courses and a glass of wine for $40 or less.

“The recognition from Michelin is pretty awesome,” said Brad Cecchi, chef at Canon in East Sacramento, which earned a Bib Gourmand. He added that the designation came as a result of focusing on the details and doing quality work day-in and day-out.

Before June 2019, only four cities in the United States featured restaurants with Michelin honors — San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. With the California-specific guide, Michelin adds Sacramento, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and more, highlighting California’s status as a culinary powerhouse.