Tampa Makes Culinary History: Three Restaurants Earn First-Ever Michelin Stars

Tampa has made its mark on the culinary map as three of its restaurants, Koya, Lilac, and Rocca, have earned the city’s first-ever Michelin stars. The announcement was made during the Florida Michelin Guide 2023 unveiling ceremony at LoanDepot Park in Miami. These restaurants joined four others across Florida in achieving this prestigious recognition, bringing the total number of Michelin-starred establishments in Miami, Orlando, and Tampa to 19.

South Tampa’s Koya, known for its high-end Japanese cuisine, proudly secured Tampa’s inaugural Michelin star. Lilac, located at Tampa Edition, followed suit and received the city’s second star, with a jubilant celebration among the crowd. The third star was awarded to Rocca, a Tampa Heights restaurant led by chef Bryce Bonsack, who had previously received a Bib Gourmand for his innovative and seasonal Italian dishes.

The ceremony also highlighted Bib Gourmand recipients and special Michelin awards. Two individuals from Tampa received red Michelin trophies and black chef jackets. In addition to the Michelin-starred restaurants, Tampa is home to 18 recommended establishments, including popular names like Yummy House, Columbia, Bern’s Steak House, and Mise en Place. Michelin Stars

Michael Ellis, International Director of the MICHELIN Guide books, emphasized that a restaurant in the Recommended selection signifies a chef’s commitment to using quality ingredients and delivering a satisfying dining experience. The event recognized the achievements of Matthew Braden, general manager of Lilac, who received the “Best Service Award,” and Christina Theofilos, head chef and owner of Psomi in South Tampa, who was honored as the “Best Young Chef.” Psomi, a Greek restaurant with global influences, was recently awarded a Bib Gourmand alongside Gorkhali Kitchen, a Nepali restaurant in New Tampa.

Michelin Stars

The Michelin Guide evaluates restaurants based on five key criteria: ingredient quality, flavor harmony, culinary techniques, the chef’s personality expressed through their cuisine, and consistency across the menu over time. Achieving a Michelin star is considered one of the highest honors in the culinary world, instantly elevating a chef’s reputation and bringing increased prestige and business to their restaurant.

It is worth noting that Michelin inspectors, who remain anonymous, did not visit any restaurants in St. Petersburg or Clearwater due to the coordination of bringing the guide to Florida, which involved Visit Florida, Visit Orlando, Visit Tampa Bay, and the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, but not Visit St. Pete Clearwater (VSPC).

According to a report by the Miami Herald, Florida’s tourist boards collectively paid over $1.5 million to bring Michelin inspectors to the state last year. During the ceremony, Dana Young, president, and CEO of Visit Florida, emphasized the significance of tourism in Florida, describing it as the “lifeblood” of the state