What a Michelin Star is, the difference between Michelin Stars and the Michelin Guide, and more.
Considered the Oscars of the food world, Michelin Stars being awarded to restaurants are a matter of great pride and reason to celebrate. Given to restaurants that excel at cooking, including sourcing quality ingredients, mastering techniques and consistency over time, Michelin Stars are the highest honour when it comes to culinary recognition. Awarded yearly, the prestigious awards also gauge existing Michelin-starred restaurants besides recognising new ones.
Michelin Inspectors are responsible for deciding which restaurants are deserving of the coveted Star. It usually takes more than one meal at a particular restaurant for a decision to be made. Inspectors visit anonymously and at different times to ensure that all customers will receive the same quality of food. A range of dishes is sampled to ensure that everything that comes out of the kitchen is of high quality.
The difference between Michelin Stars and the Michelin Guide
In 1904, Michelin was better known as a tyre company rather than one that rewarded gastronomic excellence. The Michelin Guides were a series of guidebooks introduced by the tyre company to create demand for vehicles and in turn, the tyres they manufactured. The Guide was given out for free. It expanded rapidly and came to be seen throughout Europe and Northern Africa within ten years. The Michelin Guide includes restaurants that haven’t been awarded Stars, but are still recommended by Michelin for the quality of their food.
A chef cannot be Michelin-starred
It’s a popular misconception that chefs at Michelin-starred restaurants are Michelin-starred chefs, but there is no such thing. Stars are always awarded to the restaurant and not the chef. The reason for this is that multiple chefs can cook at the same restaurant, even if the credit for a Michelin star ends up going to the head chef. For instance: Restaurant Gordon Ramsay is Michelin-starred, but chef Gordon Ramsay is not.
The Bib Gourmand
Since 1997, Michelin has also awarded ‘Bib Gourmands’ (Bib is short for Bibendum, the Michelin Man’s name) to restaurants that offer good quality food at reasonable prices. In Europe, the amount is €36 for a three course meal. And so the perception that Michelin recognises only high-end restaurants is a myth.
Restaurants recognised by Michelin needn’t necessarily be formal. Also, service and decor play no role in the decision of a Michelin Inspector. The award is based solely on the standard of cooking.
As difficult as it is to receive Michelin Stars, it’s just as easy to lose one. Starred restaurants are expected to remain consistent in the quality of food they offer or Stars can be taken away. Two Michelin Stars are awarded to restaurants where the personality of the chef has been expressed in their dishes and the food is aspirational. Three Michelin Stars, the highest award, is given to restaurants where food is synonymous with artistry and Inspectors predict that dishes will go on to become classics.