Maryann Ferenc on spending tourism tax dollars on Tampa’s growing dining scene

Maryann Ferenc, Mise en Place proprietor
Maryann Ferenc is an expert in dining and tourism

The Michelin Guide is poised this week to bestow more of its coveted stars to a handful of Florida restaurants, something that never would have happened without tourism tax dollars.

That’s because local tourism agencies in Tampa, Miami and Orlando, along with the state’s tourism agency, spent $1.5 million to lure the guide’s reviewers to those cities. Was it worth it?

Maryann Ferenc, proprietor for nearly 40 years of Tampa’s finding dining institution Mise en Place who has also been involved in Florida tourism for decades, thinks so. “It’s meaningful in a bunch of different ways,” Ference told WMNF WaveMakers with Janet and Tom Tuesday (4/16). “If there are restaurants worth being mentioned in the Michelin Guide it means there’s something goig on in food and drink here.”

And that’s good for restaurants and the local economy, which depends on tourism. “It’s an opportunity to bring more people who love to eat and drink to the community,” she said. More customers means more jobs and opportunities for new restaurants.

Ferenc, who also owns The Dewey restaurant in Pass a Grille, said it’s important that restaurateurs “keep their heads on straight” about it. It’s important to remember it’s about the journey, not the star, she said. “Anything that pushes us to be better is a good thing,” she said.

The Michelin Guide, which started in France nearly 100 years ago, has always been about the connection between food and travel. It’s taken Florida longer to embrace that concept, but it’s something that drove Ferenc to get involved in tourism promotion more than 20 years ago.

“Culinary tourism is one of the fastest sectors of tourism,” she said. She hopes the Visit St. Pete Clearwater will partner with Michelin to expand its reviews to Pinellas.

Hear the entire conversation by clicking the link below, going to the WaveMakers archives or by searching for WMNF WaveMakers wherever you listen to podcasts.


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