The Incredible Story Behind the Michelin Guide
As a foodie, you’ve probably researched all the top Michelin restaurants and dream one day of visiting them all, but have you wondered how the Michelin star rating came to be?
As a leading Vancouver culinary arts school, we thought you might like to learn this interesting story behind the world-famous rating system. After all a lot of chiefs aspire to either work in or build a three-star Michelin restaurant.
The Michelin Guide started at the beginning of the 20th century and was inspired by surprising events that have very little to do with cuisine.
The Michelin Guide Comes From Humble Origins
The first Michelin Guide was compiled in 1900 by French industrialist Andre Michelin with his brother Edouard Michelin. They wanted to create demand for automobiles…and the tires they manufactured.
Yeah you heard us right.
The brothers started the company in 1889 and were looking for a method to compel the then limited number of drivers to travel further and by extension, buy more tires. At the time, there were plenty of bicycles, but there were only 300 cars in France. Not enough for a viable business selling automobile tires.
The Michelin Guide listed a wealth of information for motorists which included where to find the best meals and accommodation whilst touring in their cars.
The first print of the Michelin Guide was 35,000 copies and was given away for free. It included maps, instructions on how to repair and change tires. But more importantly (at least for this story) there were also a list of restaurants, hotels, mechanics and gas stations along popular routes in France.
The Michelin Becomes Famous
The outbreak of the First World War in 1914 halted production, but by 1920 the Guide started back up again. The brothers even decided to ramp up the quality of the Guide. They eliminated the advertising and started charging for it.
In less than a decade, the Michelin Guide had gained considerable traction and soon there were guides available in every Western European country.
The first Michelin star ratings were given in 1926. Restaurants in France were awarded a single star if they were considered to be “fine dining establishments”.
The Guide took a hiatus during World War II, and only resumed late in 1939 because it contained maps that were useful to the Allied Forces.
In 1955, Michelin came up with a rating system that acknowledged restaurants serving high-quality fare at moderate prices.
How Does The Michelin Guide Work?
Restaurants may receive zero to 3 stars for the quality of their food based on five criteria: quality of the ingredients used, mastery of flavour and cooking techniques, the personality of the chef in his cuisine, value for money and consistency between visits.
In 1931 the rating system was expanded to become the now-famous Michelin three-star rating.
1 Star: A good restaurant in its category.
2 Stars: Excellent cooking and great food.
3 Stars: Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.
Michelin inspectors remain completely anonymous when reviewing a restaurant. While some savvy restaurants claim to have learned how to spot them, the review is meant to reflect the experience one any ordinary diner would have.
Inspectors are advised not to disclose their line of work, even to their family members and Michelin generally refuses to allow its inspectors to speak to journalists.
If you’re interested in becoming a Michelin inspector, you can apply on their website.
The Michelin Guide Goes International
Unbelievably, the Michelin star rating didn’t take hold in America until around 2005 and concentrated solely on fine dining in the Big Apple.
Even today, The Michelin Guide only touches on a small number of American cities – Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and San Francisco, leaving great restaurants not in concentrated areas untasted.
Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Macau were added to the Guide between 2007-2008. It now covers over twenty countries, with 14 editions sold in 90 countries around the world.
International restaurants claim that the Michelin Guide favours French restaurants and French-style cuisine. There is a movement to move always from the Michelin Guide to other types of rating systems.
The Michelin Guide Is Still Going Strong
In France, the release of the new Michelin Guide has the glitz and glam and media buzz of an Oscars ceremony. For the rest of the world, it’s simply considered a reliable source of information for culinary tourists and everyday diners who want an exceptional dining experience.
While it’s over 100 years old, if you’re an up-and-coming chef who wants to stay on top of the latest culinary trends, you’d be wise to track the trends taking hold in the world of fine dining. The Michelin Guide also awards “Rising Stars”, an indication that a restaurant has the potential to qualify for a star or an additional star.
The Bottom Line
If you need help with your culinary skills, D.I.C.E.D has an online class that will help you master the art of cooking. We provide a 10 month in-classroom program and four months paid practicum time for people serious about a career in the culinary industry.
This is a fully sponsored culinary training program for students that qualify. Every student begins at Fundamentals then proceeds to Intermediate and finishes with Advanced Cookery, Baking and Pastry. All students are employed at our seasonal locations to collect paid practicum hours in a controlled environment.