February 25 2008: 2:58 PM EST

Tips from a gourmand

Jean-Luc Naret, 48, Director, Michelin Guide

By Eugenia Levenson, Fortune writer-reporter

(Fortune Magazine) -- It's a universal truth: People are more passionate about food than tires. Over 100 years after Michelin first published its restaurant guides, they remain one of the French company's signature products - even though they make up less than 1% of its $21 billion in sales.

That 1% is Jean-Luc Naret's territory. In 2004 the luxury-hotel vet became the first outsider in the company's history to oversee the iconic guides, which Michelin began publishing to encourage motorists to take more trips and wear down their tires. Today the little red books can change chefs' careers by awarding the coveted Michelin stars.

Since Naret arrived, he has focused on taking the books beyond their home turf in Europe. In 2005 he launched a novel city-guide format with a New York City edition, following up with San Francisco a year later. This month he'll be on the road to introduce two new U.S. entries, for Los Angeles and Las Vegas, before jetting to Tokyo to debut Michelin's first Asian guide. We caught up with the new Michelin man in New York to talk travel.

Days on the road: Approximately 225.

Jet-lag buster: Get a late flight. From Paris to New York, I take the 7 P.M. flight, arrive in New York at 9 P.M., and then I go out for dinner. If you don't go out, you'll wake up at two o'clock in the morning.

Air necessities: My Apple PowerBook. I'm a big fan of TV series on DVD. Now I'm watching House, season two (2).

Travel site: I'm using tablet-hotels.com a lot. It always gives the right recommendation in terms of ambiance, and you can get a good rate through its online system.

Boutique picks: In New York, Chambers (1) is a favorite hotel because it's very well located in Midtown. When I'm here on the weekend with my wife, I stay at the Mercer or 60 Thompson.

Shop stop: My shirts are made by Hawes & Curtis of Jermyn Street (3). They've got a beautiful shop now at Waterloo Station, so when I take the Eurostar (4) to London, I buy the shirts on my way back.

Best deal: Jean-Georges in New York for lunch. It's $28 for a two-course meal and $36 for three courses. We're talking a three-star restaurant! The food is exquisite.  To top of page