Are you curious about the Michelin Guide and the story behind those stars and chefs? It’s a prestigious honor for restaurants and chefs that is somewhat shrouded in mystery. The only people who understand it best are the Michelin people. So here are a few facts about the guide and its history.
- The Michelin Guide was created by the same people who manufacture and sell Michelin tires. Created in 1900, the guide was a marketing plan to inspire French motorists to travel and buy tires, because you need tires to travel by motor car. The original guide had a list of gas stations, mechanics, restaurants and hotels.
- Assigning stars to fine-dining establishments didn’t begin until 1926. The Michelins hired anonymous reviewers to assign one star. The three-star review system began in 1931. One star meant good food, two stars meant good food that is worth the trip or going out of your way to eat, and three stars meant exceptional.
- American guides are in these cities (regions) only: New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., and the San Francisco Bay Area.
- Reviewers/inspectors are sworn to secrecy and few within the Michelin organization know their identities. They can tell spouses and should given most travel a good portion of the month. They pay for their own meals.
- Current criteria for stars is a secret but it is known that reviews have nothing to do with a restaurant’s decor, ambiance or service. Neighborhood is not considered in any of the guide cities.
One extra fact. There are currently 16 restaurants in Washington, D.C. with Michelin stars/reviews. The Inn at Little Washington is the only three-star restaurant in the area.
A bonus: The first black chef to receive a Michelin star was Martinique-born Louis-Philippe Vigilant of Bernard Loiseau in Dijon, France. He received his star in 2014.
This is by no means exhaustive but it’s the basics. If you know something, please share.