You’ve likely heard of Michelin-starred restaurants and know foodies who seek them out. It’s become sport among fine diners to see how many they can patronize. But what are the Michelin stars, what do they really mean and what are the standards?
If you haven’t yet made the connection, it’s that cute roly-poly man of Michelin, yes the tire company, that is behind these highly prestigious dining awards. Yes, the same company that sells tires is also responsible for handing out the restaurant industry’s highest honors.
The Michelin (tire) company, based in France, published its first travel guide in 1900, designed to entice French motorists into venturing out on road trips across the country. Cars need tires, right? And driving more wears out tires, right? The marketing strategy worked. French residents starting taking more road trips and began to rely on the guide each year to help plan out their vacations. Today, the Michelin Guide is an international standard against which many hotels and restaurants are rated.
Michelin added restaurant reviews to the guide in 1926 and today, these accolades are the hallmark of fine dining. The company employs a full-time staff to review restaurants, many of which are former chefs, but all with impeccable palates. They visit restaurants anonymously, multiple times, and take vigorous notes on the food – its quality, mastery of techniques, personality and consistency. Nothing else factors into the rating. It’s solely based on the food on the plate.
Here’s what the stars mean:
★ One Star: “A good place to stop by while on your journey.” This indicates a restaurant that is very food with a consistently high standard for its cuisine.
★★ Two Stars: “This place is worth a detour while on your journey.” These restaurants are worth the extra trip for their carefully crafted dishes and outstanding food quality.
★★★ Three Stars: “A very good restaurant in its category.” These restaurants provide exceptional cuisine with distinctive dishes that are prepared using outstanding ingredients.
Obtaining a Michelin star is a big deal among chefs and restaurants. The Michelin guide is updated each year and chefs must maintain the same high standards year after year to retain the rating. Restaurants can and do lose stars. Chef Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant, “The London”, lost its two-star rating in 2013 to which he exclaimed, “I started crying when I lost my stars. It’s a very emotional thing for any chef. It’s like losing a girlfriend. You want her back.”
10. Brussels – 31
9. Chicago – 35
8. San Francisco – 46
7. London – 79
6. Hong Kong – 87
5. New York – 99
4. Osaka – 117
3. Paris – 134
2. Kyoto – 135
1. Tokyo – 304
The Telegraph mapped Michelin stars across the world. In the U.S., Michelin currently rates restaurants in New York City, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, DC.