The Michelin Star Journey

Michelin Star

The Michelin Star Journey

Many chefs aspire to get a Michelin star or receive an award from Wine Spectator or the James Beard Foundation. These prized awards can generate a lot of media exposure, not to mention industry respect and new clients. 

Now, let’s dive into it. Who is Michelin, why do they have a star and where does it come from?

What is a Michelin Star?

A Michelin star is a famous culinary achievement bestowed by the French tire manufacturer Michelin. Michelin stars are the hallmark of great dining, indicating exceptional quality and culinary perfection. Anonymous Michelin inspectors assign stars to restaurants based on numerous factors of the dining experience, such as food quality, chef expertise, cooking consistency, ambiance, and service.

Michelin stars are highly valued in the restaurant industry and can considerably improve a restaurant’s image and profits. Restaurants can be awarded one, two, or three Michelin stars, with three stars representing extraordinary cuisine worthy of a special journey.

Where did the Michelin Star come from?

According to the Michelin website, the Michelin Guide was originally meant to encourage motorists to tour France and, of course, purchase more Michelin tires. The little red guidebook was initially free, but it was reintroduced in 1920 for seven francs. It organized hotels and restaurants by category. The Michelin star system, which ranges from zero to three, debuted in 1931. 

The Michelin Guide now includes 30 territories across three continents. Michelin restaurant inspectors are skilled food and beverage professionals who visit and review restaurants anonymously, so establishments have no idea whether they are being considered for a Michelin star. 

Meanwhile, the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards, established in 1991, celebrate exceptional chefs, restaurants, and restaurant design across the United States. Wine Spectator honors restaurants with exceptional wine lists in three categories: Award of Excellence, Best of Award of Excellence, and Grand Award.

The Development of the Michelin Star Rating System

The guide’s production was momentarily interrupted when World War I broke out in 1914, but it was resumed by 1920. At this point, the Michelin brothers decided to improve the quality of the guide, remove advertising, and begin charging for it.

The first Michelin star ratings were issued in 1926. The restaurants, all of which were in France, received a single star if they were classified as a “fine dining establishment.” In 1931, the rating system was modified to include the Michelin three-star rating, which is still used today.

Unlike other star rating systems, one star does not indicate a bad thing. Any number of Michelin Stars awarded to a restaurant is a significant honor and exceptional achievement.

The guide went on hiatus throughout World War II and was only reintroduced in late 1939 because it featured maps useful to the Allied forces. However, due to food shortages, the Michelin Star rating was dropped to two stars during this period. Understandably, quality dropped in restaurants across Europe, thus the standard was changed correspondingly.

Michelin created the Bib Gourmand rating system in 1955 to recognize restaurants that serve high-quality food at reasonable costs. This method emphasizes meal options that are more reflective of economic standards. The Bib Gourmand allows diners to eat well without breaking the bank because the ratings are tailored to the cost of living in each region and country.

The Michelin Guide Today

The Michelin Star rating did not take hold in the United States until 2005 when it began focusing entirely on fine dining in New York City. Today, the Michelin Guide examines restaurants in select American cities such as Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and San Francisco. If one of your aspirations as a chef is to work at a Michelin-starred restaurant, you should consider moving to one of these cities after graduation.

The guide now includes 37 nations from Europe, Asia, North America, and South America.

Michelin Guide Star Rating Descriptions:

  • One star: A very good restaurant in its category.
  • Two stars: Excellent cooking, worth a detour.
  • Three stars: Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.

Michelin Stars by Country

  • France – 626
  • Japan – 414
  • Italy – 381
  • Germany – 329
  • Spain – 248
  • United States – 223
  • United Kingdom – 187
  • Belgium – 138
  • Switzerland – 128
  • Netherlands – 123

How Do Restaurants Get Michelin Stars?

First, the Michelin Guide team will select a handful of restaurants in specified locations for an anonymous reviewer to evaluate. After visiting the chosen restaurant, the inspector writes a detailed report on the overall culinary experience, including the quality and presentation of the food, among other grading criteria mentioned below. The Michelin inspectors will next convene to go over the findings and decide which restaurants deserve a Michelin star (or two or three).

The study reportedly does not take into account restaurant elements such as ambiance, decor, and service quality, but many believe that the overall experience may unconsciously entice reviewers.

How Important are Michelin stars?

Without question, restaurants that obtain a Michelin Star rating are filled with pride, gain respect, and typically experience an increase in exposure and business. However, due to the grading system’s excessively high standards, there is a growing global trend of rejecting Michelin Star designations, with some restaurateurs even demanding that their star rating be revoked. They believe that the star system’s standards are unrealistic and limit a chef’s creative freedom in the kitchen.

Even today, the classic Michelin Star grading system is held in high regard in the culinary world. Some restaurateurs argue that it is the only rating that matters because Michelin inspectors are one of the few who stay entirely anonymous when reviewing a restaurant.

Although some restaurants claim to know how to identify an inspector, the casual diner will have the same experience as the inspector. And if a restaurant is observant enough to pick up on the signs given by a Michelin Star inspector, it is likely that it pays special attention to its craft and is well worth a visit!

Although chefs do not receive Michelin stars, the head chef of a restaurant is sometimes awarded credit for the restaurant’s success. As a result, many aspiring cooks dream of one day leading a restaurant to Michelin Star status.

In conclusion, achieving a Michelin star is more than just a culinary quest; it is a testimonial to dedication, innovation, and brilliance in the culinary world. The Michelin star system began as a driver’s guide and has now evolved into a prestigious designation sought after by chefs and treasured by diners all over the world. While the stars represent culinary perfection, the process of awarding them reflects a thorough examination of every aspect of the dining experience. Despite disagreements over its standards, the Michelin star remains a symbol of culinary success, inspiring chefs to push their limits and diners to embark on gastronomic expeditions. As the culinary world continues to shift, one thing remains certain: the goal of a Michelin star will always symbolize the relentless pursuit of gourmet.