What Is a “Michelin Star” Restaurant? | Everything You Should Know About Them

You may have heard about the “Michelin Star” at least once in your life. They represent the top-of-the-line in terms of food. Some restaurants have three Michelin stars, others have only one, but how does that system work?

The main thing you should know is that Michelin stars reward exceptional cuisine and fine dining experiences. These “stars” have an interesting history, which I’ll walk you through today.

Learn everything about Michelin stars, how their classification works, and other cool facts that will amaze you.

What’s the True Michelin Star Origin?

Michelin Star Restaurants

Did you know that Michelin stars come from the “Michelin Tire Company“? That’s right!

Why would a tire company award stars to restaurants? It’s actually an interesting story:

The “Michelin Tire Company” was founded in 1889. During that period, motor vehicles were new, so it was an excellent time for the business. Michelin started publishing pamphlets for travelers. Its goal was to promote its services and provide useful information about the industry.

These pamphlets were called the “MICHELIN Guides.” Not only did they have information about car maintenance and other motor vehicle facts, but they also featured lists of popular lodgings and restaurants along certain routes. Think about them as local guides for tourists today.

After 1920, people had to pay a few francs to get a MICHELIN Guide, leading to other companies paying to have a feature in the pamphlet. To make things interesting, the Michelin company assembled a group of “mystery diners,” and their goal was to review restaurants (we’re getting to the fun part).

The group started awarding stars to the best restaurants by 1926. However, these people noticed that there were a few “extra special establishments,” so they started awarding two and even three stars to them by 1931.

Today, we have a similar system that the company had when the project launched. I’ll review that part in the next section.

Who Gives Michelin Stars?

The short answer is “Michelin inspectors.” By reading the previous section, you already know that they’re part of a group of anonymous diners. Of course, they’re anonymous because they don’t want to get any special treatment, which adds up to the credibility of the MICHELIN Guide.

They’re full-time workers, and they mostly represent experts in the hospitality industry or former restaurant specialists. How are Michelin stars awarded, though? Here’s how it works:

Several inspectors will eat at the restaurant. Once enough people have their opinions about it, they’ll discuss their experiences with the rest of the group to make a decision. There’s no standard rule when it comes to eating; these experts can take as many meals as necessary to get the “complete picture” of the restaurant’s food.

What these experts look for is “consistency.” In other words, they want to ensure that all customers receive the same standard of quality regardless of the time they visit.

About the Classification for Michelin Stars

Now, you may be wondering how the “star” system works. It’s simpler than you think. Here’s an overview:

One Star

It represents a “very good restaurant.” In other words, it has a high-quality menu and provides excellent food consistently.

Two Stars

Restaurants with two Michelin stars are considered to have “refined and inspired food.” They’re awarded when the chef’s talent and personality show in every dish. Usually, it’s “worth a detour” to visit if you’re traveling.

Three Stars

They’re the highest award a restaurant can get. Three stars are for restaurant chefs “at the peak of their profession.” According to the MICHELIN guide, the cooking from these experts is considered an art form. Moreover, some dishes are “destined” to become classics. They’re considered to be “worth a special journey” for any person.

Whether the restaurant has one Michelin star or more, you can rest assured it represents the best of what the industry has to offer.

The awards don’t stop there, though. Two more categories reward excellent cooking and other factors:

  • Bib Gourmand: The Bib Gourmand is for establishments that offer great value and simple yet skillful cooking. Of course, the restaurant is still expected to have a high standard of cooking, but the award is aimed toward simple, affordable meals.
  • Green Star: Green stars are awarded to restaurants considered “role models” in the sustainable gastronomy sector. This is the newest award created for the MICHELIN Guide, and it was introduced in 2020 to the France edition. Today, this award is featured in any country that the MICHELIN Guide covers.

Why Is It Called “Michelin Star”?

Simply put, they’re called “Michelin Stars” because they’re awarded by the MICHELIN Guide. As mentioned previously, this “guide” started as a travel pamphlet for customers. It was created in hopes of getting more people to travel or buy tires.

Today, the guide primarily focuses on high-quality cooking and the restaurant industry in general.

What Are the Most Popular Michelin Star Chefs?

Although Michelin stars are awarded to the restaurant, much of the credit goes to the executive chef. Usually, they’re the person responsible for designing and executing the menu, as well as managing the rest of the team.

Those who get a restaurant such an award are considered “Michelin Star Chefs.” There are plenty of them around, but below, I’ll walk you through the ones with the most stars:

Joël Robuchon

He’s considered the best chef of the modern age by many. Joël has 31 Michelin stars as of today. These stars are spread across three continents, so there’s a good reason why people praise him so much.

Alain Ducasse

Alain Ducasse doesn’t stay behind. He has worked in plenty of restaurants since he was young, allowing him to refine his skills in the kitchen.

As of today, he has 21 Michelin stars.

Gordon Ramsay

You may have heard about Gordon through TV shows and social media posts. Many people love (or hate) his unique personality. However, there’s no doubt about his skills as a chef.

Gordon is associated with seven Michelin stars, although his restaurants have earned him a total of 17.

Yannick Alléno

Yannick focuses on using the principles of classical French cuisine in modern menus. Currently, he has 15 Michelin stars.

Pierre Gagnaire

Pierre is another chef who often puts modern spins on traditional/classic French cuisine. He’s one of the most creative professionals in the industry. As of today, his restaurants have earned him a total of 14 Michelin stars.

How to Become a Michelin Star Inspector

The MICHELIN Guide has a set of requirements for people who want to become inspectors. First, you’d have to check if the company is looking for new experts.

As for the requirements, the official MICHELIN Guide website asks for:

  • Minimum of five years of “relevant” experience
  • Extensive international knowledge of cuisines, culinary techniques, ingredients, and industry fundamentals
  • Being plugged into the latest establishment openings, closings, and updates

Keep in mind that this job isn’t easy. Most of the time, it’ll require you to eat and travel a lot. The company often expects three weeks of travel per month plus a minimum of 275 inspection meals every year.

Something interesting about the job is that Michelin often provides fitness membership reimbursements to offset the eating. It’s a nice touch to consider.

As I continue my world travels, I’ll list all the Michelin star restaurants I visit. 

Meanwhile, here’s a few related articles I’ve written:

Conclusion

There you have it! That’s the entire history of Michelin stars. Have you ever eaten at an awarded restaurant before?

Although it seems difficult to get such a huge award, it’s safe to say that many chefs and restaurants have been able to achieve that goal. If you want to get the most “premium” eating experience, you should consider eating at one of these restaurants sometime (but make sure to prepare your wallet).

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About 

Tim Schmidt is a 20+ year Entrepreneur and Digital Marketer. A Fort Lauderdale-based "Digital Nomad," he enjoys traveling as much as possible with family and friends. AllWorld is his escape to document all of his adventures, including being a hardcore "foodie." He has property in Costa Rica and visits several times each year and is happy to offer his expert advice for planning your trip.

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