The Michelin Guide has been the ultimate symbol of excellence in the world of fine dining for over a century. While the restaurant industry is evolving with many relying on word of mouth and loyal diners, the Michelin Guide still remains the holy grail of culinary achievement. But what is it and how does it work? This article will explore everything you need to know about the Michelin Guide’s rating system, including its history, how the stars are awarded, and what the stars mean.
A Brief History of the Michelin Guide
The Michelin Guide was first launched in 1900 by the Michelin tire company to encourage people to drive more and go through tires more quickly. The annual ranking of French restaurants was designed to create a demand for cars and encourage people to travel more. Since then, the guide has evolved into the most prestigious culinary award in the world, with restaurants clamoring for the coveted stars.
The Michelin Guide Today
The Michelin Guide is now published in over 30 countries and covers a large swathe of cities and regions. However, there are still many countries and cities that are not covered, which is often cited as the guide’s biggest downfall. To be eligible for a Michelin star, restaurants must be located in a covered region.
See also: What is the Meilleur Ouvrier de France?
How Are Michelin Stars Awarded?
To allocate its coveted stars, the Michelin Guide employs thousands of inspectors, who will travel around the world sampling the finest cuisine on offer. The highly trained inspectors will visit hundreds of restaurants a year in order to identify the best of the best. The inspectors are anonymous and pay for their meals like any other customer to ensure they receive no preferential treatment.
Once each restaurant has been inspected, the Michelin guide director meets with the worldwide teams for what is called ‘star sessions’ where the rating of each restaurant is debated. These sessions often last days, with each establishment considered one by one until a unanimous decision is reached. The results are then published in a country-specific guide.
What Do Michelin Stars Mean?
Restaurants can earn a maximum of three stars. Michelin quantifies one star as being “high-quality cooking, worth a stop”; two stars is for “excellent cooking, worth a detour”; and finally, the prestigious three stars represent “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.”
Reportedly, what elevates a restaurant from two stars to three is emotion, with inspectors seeking completely unique dining experiences that last in the memory long after the meal has finished. Demonstration of a chef’s distinct style or personality in their cooking is another key criterion.
Alternative Michelin Awards
While the Michelin stars are the guide’s most famous awards, they are not the only recognition given. In addition to star ratings, Michelin has also awarded the Bib Gourmand since 1957, Michelin Plate since 2016, and most recently, the Green Star, which was first revealed in 2020.
The Bib Gourmand is a separate category that recognizes excellent cooking at more pocket-friendly prices. The Michelin Plate recognizes good food that is not quite of the same caliber as that served in Michelin-starred or Bib Gourmand restaurants but is still worthy of recognition.
The Green Michelin star is separate from all of the guide’s other distinctions and is awarded only to those restaurants going above and beyond to operate in a way that is both ethical and environmentally friendly. Only those restaurants already in receipt of another Michelin award can receive a Green star, be it Michelin star, Bib Gourmand.
The Michelin Guide’s rating system remains the most coveted culinary award in the world. It has a long history and has evolved to include other awards such as the Bib Gourmand.