If you served the Hellman's recipe to a Michelin reviewer, you're not getting a star. And I'm sure that Danny Meyer would know that instantly, were he not influenced by his memories and emotions.
Also, to be clear, I am by no means being critical of him for bringing his emotion into the dish. If it's anything, it's a positive thing, in my opinion. I'm just showing this as a very clear example of how complicated reactions to food can be.
I think it actually is very possible to earn a Michelin Star serving a Hellman’s recipe. If the atmosphere is good, the service and presentation of the food high quality, and the overall experience classy, that potato salad is going to taste really good to even the most critical of food critics. They are susceptible to the emotional parts of the food experience just as much as anyone, and is in fact part of the review.
Trying to the remember the series but I watched something about the history of Creole/Cajun food with a focus on Shrimp Creole and PoBoys. They took the dish all the way from the early 1900s when it was made by workers to some relatively current dishes being prepared at fine dining places. The dish started as basically ketchup, fresh shrimp, and whatever vegetable scrapes avaiblable.
My point is there is usually some inspiration for a dish that is attached to emotions. Think the movie Ratatouille. You could do something similar with Potato salad.
I know you weren’t trying to be critical of the chef but it cerntainly feels like you are judging him.
(I'll give you fresh-made mayonnaise — I can't think of a time I regretted that, except when it came time to do dishes.)